This past May, Shanna Leavitt’s two daughters were diagnosed with Friedreich's Ataxia, a disease that causes progressive damage to the nervous system. Within a few weeks of the diagnosis, Leavitt’s youngest child was put in a wheelchair as the symptoms began to impair her muscle coordination. Leavitt realized that in order to keep living in her Calgary-based home, she would have to invest in significant renovations to make the home more functional and accessible for her and her daughters in the years to come.
“With the sudden onset of the symptoms, I was having a hard time carrying the kids up and down the stairs,” Leavitt said. “They were both experiencing difficulties controlling the lights and the television, or turning the knob to answer the front door. I knew that I would have to eventually renovate the home to include wheelchair access and improved functionality, even though I didn’t have the funds to do so. One day, I explained all of this to my old friend Gregg Jones, and the rest is history.”
Immediately following their conversation, Jones, a technical sales manager at Product Solutions West, realized that he could apply a smart home system design—which he had only previously implemented in luxury residences—to provide “digital caregiving” for the Leavitt family. To do so, he solicited dozens of custom installation vendors—including Core Brands, Aprilaire, Centralite, and more—to see if they would donate product or services to build a wheelchair-accessible smart home for the Leavitt family.
"I was overwhelmed with the instant support I received when I approached them,” Jones said. “It’s easy to get caught up in the ‘cool factor’ of home automation. But smart home technology is really designed to improve the quality of life, and it has definitely done so in this home. Thanks to all of the gracious donations, we have completely changed the lives of the Leavitt family.”
The extensive renovation included demolition, indoor and outdoor remodeling, and most notably, the integration of a customized new smart home infrastructure built on an ELAN Entertainment and Control System. The new system enables Leavitt and her children to control the home’s lighting, front door intercom station, security, music and climate, autonomously or remotely, from tablets or easily accessible in-wall touchpanels.
“We did not tell Shanna or the girls any of the details of the project until we revealed the finished and completed installation. They were surprised to see, experience, and use the system for the first time,” Jones emphasized. “We were able to give them one-touch control through the system anchored by ELAN gSC10 and ELAN g1 controllers with six ELAN gTP4 touchpanels installed throughout the home for convenient user interface.”
Product Solutions West purposefully installed touchpanels at switch height to make them wheelchair accessible. The children can also easily control the lights or change the song playing from their own Apple iPads. “The new functionality has totally changed our lives,” Leavitt said. “I was overcome with emotion when it was revealed to me for the first time, and since then, it’s become an everyday staple.”
The new ELAN system also provides intercom functionality, which is critical for communicating room to room, in addition to providing instant access to the front door. “We tied the ELAN g1 Controller to the door station so that all of the touchpanels ‘pang’ when the doorbell has rung,” Jones said. “The girls can see who’s at the door, right from their tablets or touchpanels!”
ELAN’s intercom feature communicates with a Weiser Smart Code Door Lock and a Door Station Controller, which allows for locking and unlocking of the door with any mobile tablet or touch panel. “We also installed an LCD Smartcode touchpanel door lock because the girls are losing finger strength,” Jones said. “They can now lock the door, or unlock the door, remotely. It’s important that they can let their nanny and nurse in easily, even if Shanna isn’t home.”
A newly installed Centralite and Glimmer lighting system operates autonomously within the home so that neither of the children has to worry about turning the lights on or off as they move from room to room. Thirty-four Centralite Button Jetstream Dimmers and five Jetstream scene control switchers communicate directly with the ELAN system so that the girls can easily dim the lights from their iPads, or from the touchpads in the walls, if they so choose.
“Aside from the necessary autonomous functionality, we made it a point to create a lighting system that cultivated a calming atmosphere,” Jones said. “We integrated over 100 Glimmer LED Light Bulbs with the autonomous lighting system to create a very real and soft light at 3,000 Kelvin. The Glimmer bulbs work well with automation, and they also counteract any depression that may be rooted in Vitamin D deficiency.”
The smart home functionality also serves a critical purpose in boosting morale. Through a six-source, six-zone SpeakerCraft MRA-664 Multi-Room Audio Controller, the children can listen to their favorite genre of music individually and instantaneously, in any room, on 10 SpeakerCraft in-ceiling speakers and even outdoors with a Niles PS6SI Pro Flowerpot Speaker. “It goes without saying that when ‘your jam’ comes on, you’re instantly happier,” Jones said. “The girls are having a lot of fun controlling the music in the house—and not having to share!”
Since the system is so critical to the Leavitt family’s everyday life, it’s necessary to protect it from power surges or outages. “Core Brands donated a Panamax M4000-Pro and a Panamax MB850 UPS to guarantee that the home would get uninterrupted power, and that the entire system would be protected in the case of a lightning strike or something equivalent,” Jones said. “We also utilize the BlueBOLT functionality to keep the network recycled and refreshed on a weekly basis.”
The ELAN system also offers peace of mind for the foreseeable future. The flexible platform allows Product Solutions West to add onto the system as the family’s needs develop over time. “We don’t know what their needs are going to be as time goes on,” Jones said. “Through ELAN, we have the ability to customize and add on new features in the future.”
According to Leavitt, the family is adjusting well to the system. “The girls are teaching me things I didn’t even know the system could do!” Leavitt laughed. “The remote and one-touch functionality is really great. And beyond that, it is so cool to know that there’s a huge community behind me at a time when I really need it.”
The project also proved to be an eye-opening and inspiring experience for Jones and his team. “I am so thankful for every single person and company that helped us to transform this home for the better,” Jones said. “Future Tech Security and Adera Technologies assisted with infrastructure, installation, and programming. And, for anything that we were missing, Product Solutions West graciously donated their product and time. It’s really inspiring to experience how the residential technology industry can come together to make something great happen.”