Sam’s extraordinary journey to independence

By Therapy Focus

With the support of innovative assistive technology, people who live with physical disabilities like Sam can now be in control of their choices without the need to rely on others for support.

Sam Cole is a 29-year-old wheelchair user who lives with a neuromuscular disorder called Dystonia. This condition causes her to experience involuntary muscle contractions which makes completing daily tasks like switching on a light or opening a door incredibly difficult. As such, Sam has always relied on another person being present in her house so she can safely complete daily living tasks.

Sam sits in her wheelchair at her back door. She is smiling and has long blonde hair.

Pictured: Sam Cole

“I require support with most daily activities. Using a wheelchair and having minimal arm function limits my independence… I could not operate switches or open and close doors. Security was an issue because of this. If I was alone in the house, I could not turn on lights” Sam shared.

Being in your late 20s is all about developing your sense of independence, and this is something Sam has been working very hard to achieve. Sam’s mum Diane has been supporting Sam to achieve this but has voiced her concerns about her daughter’s safety and how she is often on edge, worrying if Sam is ok.

That’s when they enlisted the support of Therapy Focus Senior Occupational Therapist Deanne Coleman. Deanne, in partnership with Intelligent Home, assessed Sam’s needs and was able to provide assistive technology to eliminate the worry Diane once felt for her daughter’s safety. Plus, Deanne has been able to provide Sam with more independence and control over her surroundings.

Deanne provided Sam with an assortment of technology including a smart home adaptation of automatic doors, remote control blinds, curtains and lights. These were initially operated by an app on Sam’s phone and iPad but now they are voice-activated controls, thanks to Alexa, making it even easier for Sam to operate.

When asked how this technology has changed Sam’s life she said:

“I am now feeling safer in my home when alone. I now have the freedom to go outside when I choose without having to ask for assistance, and of course, if alone I can do so myself. If I need to answer the door to let support in, there is no need for a key to be left. I am in control of it. Closing curtains and turning on lights is proving a great asset now it’s getting darker earlier. I can close the blinds, turn on lights and feel safe and secure… but the main thing is I can do it. I don’t need someone to do it for me. We also had a video doorbell installed, which gives me the ability to see who is at the door without opening it first. I operate this via my phone or iPad, anywhere in the home.”

Diane is just as ecstatic about the technology:

“Seeing the independence these additions have made to Sam are amazing. She now has the ability to do the tasks we take for granted. They have enhanced her daily living and allowed me the feeling of safety and security for which she is responsible. I don’t feel I have to rush home if it’s darker earlier or someone is coming to our home. Sam is in control of it all. It is a lovely place to see her!”

Seeing these improvements and Sam’s newfound independence is what makes every hurdle worth it.

Do you have a story to share?

Whilst everyone’s experiences are different, sharing your story can inform, inspire and help others in many ways. If you feel comfortable sharing your therapy journey, get in touch with our friendly team today.