A high-tech home in Boardman promotes independent living News, sports, jobs



Staff photo/JT Whitehouse George Gabriel, supervisor of services and support for the Mahoning County Board of Developmental Disabilities, shows a special stove safety device that shuts off the gas line when the stove is turned on without activity.

Boardman – In years past, a person with a developmental disability should have a caregiver on hand to help them with their daily lives.

Today, thanks to changes in technology, that person can live more independently and still work in a safe environment. That technology will be on display at the Mahoning County Developmental Disabilities Board’s “Tech House” in Boardman.

The house has a lot of equipment and technology that can be seen by customers. Depending on the need, one, more or all of the technology can be used to create a happier, stress-free life, board officials said.

“The Tech House has been up and running for about eight months,” said MCBDD Service and Support Manager Supervisor George Gabriel. “The home will allow our customers to see and experience the equipment available.”

Gabriel said the idea came from a $10,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities. As a result of the grant, MCBDD was able to produce four technical experts trained in new technologies. The four professionals trained were designated Service and Support Managers.

To showcase the technology available, SSAs need a place to house it all.

“It started with just a few tools in my office,” Gabriel said.

It takes a lot more room to display a wider range of technology, so why not a home? Gabriel Medina and Cuyahoga counties each have a technology home. As for MCBDD, it didn’t have one yet, but the house behind Boardman Plaza on Glenwood Street was already owned by MCBDD. According to Gabriel, he served as a team member but was released two years ago.

“We were going to use it as a Covid-19 shelter, but with technology now at the forefront, we said let’s do it,” Gabriel said.

Through the grant, Gabriel suppliers are presented with their technologies and equipment that can benefit people with developmental disabilities who want to live more independently. The response was overwhelming, and companies like THS, Wynn-Wreath and Safe-N-Home jumped on board and offered training on their devices.

Over the past eight months, the house in Boardman has been filled with high-tech equipment and now serves as a showroom for things that make life more comfortable for people with disabilities. The technology starts from the front door.

“We have four different hubs in the house to manage equipment and run the house,” said SSA Guy Young.

Hubs like Alexa can do everything from seeing who’s at the door, raising or lowering blinds, turning on lights, turning on the TV or playing music, he said.

Devices in the bedroom enhance the warning devices that already exist. A special bed is connected to a device that detects smoke and carbon monoxide. When one of these devices goes off, the sensor turns on a motor connected to the bed and shakes it violently, making the person wake up and leave the house.

Another interesting device is the control box placed on the stove. The device recognizes that the burners are on, and if no action is taken around the stove, the gas is automatically shut off.

Appliances in the kitchen and bathroom, such as microwaves, soap dispensers, and faucets, can be turned on simply by talking to one of the hubs.

Some technology devices, such as pill dispensers, stand-alone devices that can dispense a two-week supply of medication, or devices that dispense pitches for handshakes.

Other advanced devices include non-electronics. For those who want to feed themselves, there are straps to hold a spoon or fork. There are jar lid openers that allow for more pressure, or an automatic opener that does all the work by itself.

The technologies and tools available today are endless and the technology house has most of them, Gabriel said, it’s all about matching the right equipment with the right customer.

“If a disabled person shows interest, it starts,” he said. “They meet with one of our SSAs, who helps them choose what fits in their life, then a group meeting is held and the person is equipped with the selected tools and technologies.”

Young said six months after the client is set up, an assessment is done to make sure the equipment and technology are working and to see if additional equipment might be useful.

Gabriel said many clients have visited the home and are working with SSA. He said the program could be expanded when schools return later this month.

“We want to open this house to special needs teachers, so they can see what’s available,” Gabriel said.

He added that on the way, the technology house can be given to the elderly people at home. It can also be used as a test house.

“Nobody lives there at the moment,” said Gabriel. “Hopefully we’ll get to the point where we can get people to spend a week to see what works for them.”

For now, the tech house is used to showcase what’s available in a hand-crafted format.

“It allows us to see and see tech house equipment,” Young said. Better than just looking at a review online.

jtwhitehouse@vindy.com



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