News / Calgary

Accessible Housing Calgary planning automated apartments

Group seeks donations of iPhones and iPads which will control climate, lighting and blinds in new units

Stewart Midwinter has already wired his assisted living unit to work with Google Play, and he hopes to eventually move into Inclusio, a 45-unit accessible building being built by Accessible Calgary.

Brodie Thomas / Metro Order this photo

Stewart Midwinter has already wired his assisted living unit to work with Google Play, and he hopes to eventually move into Inclusio, a 45-unit accessible building being built by Accessible Calgary.

As an engineer, Stewart Midwinter said he was always an early adopter, on the bleeding edge of new technology.

Since a spinal injury in 2011, those gadgets aren’t just a nice-to-have luxury, but part of a newfound independence.

His unit at a seniors apartment is wired. His Android phone is attached to a lanyard around his neck, and a new Google Home speaker is near his bedside

“Hey Google — play Orange is the New Black,” commands Midwinter.

The TV in the corner comes to life and the latest episode of the show he requested starts playing.

Midwinter said the rise of voice-activated technology has been a total change for him. After his spinal injury in a paragliding crash in 2011, the engineer lost use of his legs and hands. Even an iPhone is difficult for him to use, because he needs to use the side of his thumb.

“Having technology that enabled me to get back online once I was injured was huge,” said Midwinter.

Unable to type, he became reliant on a ‘head mouse’ controlled by where he is looking, and voice-to-text programs for writing.

Midwinter’s room is a bit cramped.

But he’s hoping to move into some new digs in the new year. Accessible Housing Calgary is building Inclusio, a 45-unit building that will feature state-of-the-art suites.

Mike Dummer, president at Digital Lifestyles, is doing the automation work in the new building. He said residents will even be able to control the lighting and curtains from a digital device.

“Everybody has caregivers for everything: Can you change the channel on my TV? Can you turn on that light, can you close the window?’”

He said his business started out just automating people’s homes, but he soon saw how people with disabilities can really use the technology.

Accessible Housing has been asking the general public for gently used iPhones and iPads as it gets ready to open the building.

“As far as we know, there’s no other building at this scale with this kind of technology in Calgary,” said Anita Hofer, director of development for Accessible Housing. “We wanted to be able to provide an iPhone or an iPad to every resident who wanted to live there.”

They’re asking for iPhones that are generation 5 or newer, and iPads generation 3 or newer.

Donations can be made by contacting info@accessiblehousing.ca

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