How does assistive technology ‘assist’ people with disability?

Conor Murphy shares his story.

The value of assistive technology in helping people with disability to live safely and independently, including being able to do every day things such as bathe, dress, communicate, eat and drink, move around, socialise, learn, work and play, should not be underestimated.

There are currently many pathways to access assistive technology and we hope that pathways and options to acquire assistive technology will increase into the future.

With the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the My Way model in Western Australia, both of which support people with disability to exercise more choice and control over their supports and services, the Independent Living Centre WA aims to ensure the importance of access to the most appropriate assistive technology is at the forefront of people’s planning, along with other essential supports and services.

We think the best way to demonstrate how assistive technology ‘assists’ people with disability to live their life their way is to share real stories of real people.

Meet Conor Murphy.

conor murphy

My name is Conor, I’m a 24-year-old man living with muscular dystrophy. I live in my own place, which I share with a friend who also has disability. We received funding under a shared management model, which gives us control over who we want as support staff (providing 24-hour care) and our care planning. I actively seek out emerging assistive technology, either through support staff or by researching online, because the products and devices I use make my day-to-day living much easier and more independent.

The house I live in was designed and built with universal access in mind. We have recently begun to use new assistive technology to build upon these design features, including Z-wave technology [low-power wireless technology designed specifically for remote control applications]. A lights program was fitted into our electrical system, which allows me to operate the lights in my room from a mobile phone app. With this function installed, I don’t require a carer to turn them on or off. My phone also has a Bluetooth system that allows me to operate incoming and outgoing calls from an earpiece and button in my left hand. This makes it easier for me to communicate on the phone and I don’t require help from others. I also have a phone app that allows me to operate the TV. My phone is attached to my chair with a bracket and I operate my powered wheelchair with a mini-joystick. Due to its size, I have greater movement and speed in my chair using the smaller joystick. This is important when I’m playing wheelchair sport.

I use my computer a lot for work and social purposes. At home, I have a height-adjusted desk and at work I have an electronically-adjustable desk (accessible for all workers). Attached to my desk at home are two armrests that hold my arms up and allow me to operate my wireless mouse and regular keyboard. Sometimes I use the onscreen keyboard to type emails and long-worded documents because it’s easier—but I like to continue using my regular keyboard so I’m using my hands. At work, I use a wireless mouse.

In my bedroom, I use a hoist to get in and out of my electronically-adjustable bed. On the table next to me, I have a VPAP (variable positive airway pressure) machine and cough machine if required. I also have an audio-monitor in case I need anything during the night—I can just make a sound and my carer will come. I also have a special clock radio with a laser pointer that beams the time onto the roof.

In the future I would like to get an activated remote control so I can turn on the TV in my room or change the channel, something which I’m currently dependent on my carer for. Another goal is to also have the app-operated light system extended across whole house.

Imagine how different Conor’s life would be without assistive technology.

The Independent Living Centre provides free information and advice to help people choose and access the most appropriate assistive equipment items. Visit our services here

What assistive technology makes your life easier?

2 Responses

  1. Wendy Coultas says:

    Conor Murphy is a progressive young man!

    Can you please let me know who built his accessible home and what was funding available for the additional costs?

    Many thanks


  2. Conor Murphy says:

    Hi Wendy,

    Sorry it has taken this long to reply, however I had to ask my mother as she got the house built to provide the information your after. The following comments are from her point of view.

    The most important thing to enable us to get the house for you to live in was to plan well in advance.

    We started thinking about building and designing a purpose built house for you basically from the day you were diagnosed.

    From then on everywhere I went I paid attention to design features of accessible bathrooms, bedrooms and houses in general, I really looked at what worked and what didn’t.

    Once we had the block, also chosen with a great deal of thought to access and other issues, like proximity to the shops and so on, I spoke to the builder in depth so that he understood what we needed.

    I even made him sit in a commode while I pushed him around so that he really understood the concept of flat and no lips, bumps etc.

    I did the same with our architect who also made appointments to see the OT’s at Rocky Bay, he also went up to the residence at Rocky Bay and had a look at the bathrooms there.

    With regard to finance apart from the funds available through CAEP we did not receive any other support in building, designing or purchasing the property.

    I am happy to discuss this further with anyone who wants to make contact, I can be contacted via the ILC.


    Lesley and Conor

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