Home, Education and Work Environment
Alert systems are wireless systems set up to alert people who are Deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind. These send flashing light signals or through different vibrating signals to a pager worn on the clothing. Depending on individual circumstances at home or in the workplace, these systems operate through transmitters using a range of settings to alert the user to callers at the door. Transmitters include telephone/fax ringing, activated smoke alarm, or baby monitor.
A house plan with potential alarms
Smoke alarms that use extra loud, flashing lights or vibrating alerts can be installed in the home or the workplace.
A person with vision and hearing impairment who is unable to detect a flashing light or hear the alert might need a smoke alarm with an alerting system. A vibrating pager would be worn during the day. At night, the system is connected to a vibrating pad placed under the pillow. Both systems would alert the user when a smoke alarm is activated.
Depending on an individual’s level of vision and hearing, a combination of these systems may be suitable. For example, using extra loud or flashing alert during the day, and using a vibrating alert system at night when the hearing aid is not worn.
Note: When choosing an alerting system a person should seek support and advice from a professional to ensure the device is going to meet their individual needs.
A smoke alarm
Assistive listening devices or look systems provide increased amplification and clarity. This may benefit an individual with deafblindness by improving communication.
Depending on type and level of hearing loss, assistive listening devices can improve how a person listens to television or audio.
A personal listening device (or personal amplifier) can improve communication in one-to-one conversations. This can be an alternative to hearing aids for some people with mild hearing loss.
For a person who wears hearing aids a personal amplifier used with a neck-loop could provide similar benefits with the Telecoil (“T” Switch) switched on. However, not all hearing aids are fitted with Telecoil. Digital hearing aids would need to be programmed to use Telecoil.
Seek professional advice from your Audiologist if using as an alternative to hearing aids.
Please note, this list is in no way extensive. Please discuss potential options with your treating allied health team. Advice from an audiologist should be sought before selecting equipment to amplify sound.
FM Listening Systems
An FM System is wireless, using radio transmission to transfer sound directly from a microphone in the transmitter to a receiver worn on a hearing aid. FM Systems have improved sound quality with a reduction in background noise. Receivers are available to work similarly for use with bone-anchored hearing aids and cochlear implants.
Listening to the Television & Other Audio Equipment
Loop systems, wireless or infrared headphones increase clarity and amplification when listening to the television, radio, or other audio equipment. Suitability will depend on the individual’s type and level of hearing loss.
Wireless and infrared devices are portable, reducing the risk of falls on trailing cables. Good quality headphones are also available from major electrical retailers.
Features to look for are amplification capabilities, listening range, and ease of use of controls. Wireless systems will reduce accidents.
- Portable digital wireless headphones with a frequency range of 100 metres
- Transmitter connects to a television or other audio equipment
- Headphones rechargeable on a docking station
- Adjustable left and right volume control on the headphone
Wireless over-ear headphones
Stereo Listening System
- Can be infrared listening system
- Wireless headphones may have a listening range of 12 metres
- Three listening systems with the option to use for one-to-one communication
- Volume control on receiver for balancing and adjusting the volume for left and right ear
There are increasing possibilities of using smartphones to assist in communication. Hearing aids and cochlear implants can connect to tools such as smartphones to change the amplification and fine-tune hearing devices. There are also tools such as sound cancelling headphones that can be used to reduce background noise and assist in amplifying what an individual needs to hear. Please discuss with your treating team if there are any suitable options for you.
In addition to lighting and low vision aids, there are many low-tech options to support a person to continue reading and writing.
- Good contrast with bold lines on white paper
- Helps a person with low vision to see when writing and keep in a straight line
- A4 size plastic template fits over a sheet of paper
- The frame provides good contrast for use as a visual guide, keeping writing in a straight line
- The template can also be used as a tactile guide when writing
- Good contrast with a tactile guide to indicate where signature required
- Credit card sized fits easily into a wallet or purse
- Envelope guides are also available that work in the same way
Other options are available to make everyday life easier such as large print diaries, calendars, and rulers.
Felt tip pens are available with varying thicknesses of nibs providing good contrast. Writing in large print with a felt tip pen can make it easier to read for a person who has low vision.
Good lighting can assist people with deafblindness to maintain independence. Improvements to lighting and contrast can make it easier to see close work such as reading, writing, crafts and artwork.
Using natural light where possible can improve the quality of light.
Task lighting by using lamps with flexible arms enables the light source to be angled and directed much closer to the task. This increases the level and spread of light in comparison to light directed from the ceiling or wall lights.
Task lighting can be purchased from many department stores, office equipment stores, craft stores, and some specialist organisations.
When choosing globes and lamps there are options, such as daylight globes, that add to the quality of light by simulating daylight. When choosing task lighting consider how close you are going to position yourself to the lamp. Fluorescent tube lighting and a plastic cover may be cooler to touch, minimising risks such as burns to the face or hands.
Other options for lighting include pocket torches, or small lights with an LED light that can be carried in the pocket, a handbag, or attached to a key ring. Many mobile phones also have an inbuilt torch.
The choice of a lamp will depend on how it will be used. A floor standing lamp is less portable and so likely to be positioned in a place in the room that is used more frequently. Other lamps are more portable and can be used at a desk or table. Features to consider:
- Choice of bulbs: fluorescent tubes will spread light more evenly. Some bulbs simulate natural light to reduce glare.
- Type of shade: a plastic light shade will be cooler to touch when used for longer periods avoiding the risk of burns if brought close to face.
- The flexibility of arm: lighting levels will be increased the closer the light source can be brought to the task.
- Clamps for fixing to desktops.
- Static or portable options.
Magnifying lamps serve a dual purpose: providing additional light whilst magnifying print, doing craftwork, or other close tasks. Generally, magnifying lamps are limited in the strength of magnification and therefore may not be suitable for people with severe vision impairment.
Many mobile phones have an inbuilt torch. These and small torches or key ring torches can be useful for directing light when out and about or, for example, when locating a key into a lock.
When choosing assistive technology for use in the kitchen, a person should seek support and advice from a professional to ensure the device is going to meet their individual needs. This may include consultation with an occupational therapist who can complete a functional capacity assessment and provide recommendations.
Some examples of everyday technology which may be useful in the kitchen include:
- Textured non-slip mats are sold in many large stores either pre-cut or on a roll to be cut to size
- Contrasting colours make it easier for people with vision impairment to locate items placed on them
- The texture of mats also acts as a tactile cue
- Mats grip to surfaces so that items placed on the mat will be less likely to slip
- Available in different styles and sizes
- Assists when opening jars and bottle lids
A jar opener
- Battery operated can opener
- Attached to tin magnetically
- Press the button to operate
- Removes lid from can completely which can then be released into the bin without needing to handle
An electric can opener
- Available in different styles
- Plastic hook lifts ring pull to peel back lid
- Heat resistant strips clip onto oven shelf
- Provides visual contrast when locating oven shelves
- Protects fingers and hands when reaching into the oven
- Protects hands when removing items from the oven
- Silicon oven gloves are heat and slip-resistant
- Can be used to pick up hot food items
- Washable in soapy water
Other options are available to protect against being burnt such as:
- Heat resistant woven gloves that fit more securely on hands
- Oven gloves with extra long sleeve
There are many options to mark control settings on kitchen tools. These can enable people with deafblindness to operate appliances and remote controls independently. For example:
- Puff paint
- Velcro dots
- Hook LLI over the side of cup/glass
- As liquid rises and makes contact with prongs the gadget buzzes and vibrates to alert the user to stop pouring
- Avoids risk of scalding and spillage when pouring hot water
- Slip-resistant grip outside of handles
- Lightweight spring-loaded scissors
- Reduces risks when making hot drinks
- Urn is placed on the counter, no need to lift when pouring hot water
- Place cup/mug underwater outlet and release tap lever
- Speaks liquid measurements in metric and imperial
- A male voice with adjustable volume
- By pressing a button, the reading can be reset to zero. This is useful for adding liquid to be measured without having to empty the jug.
- Holds up to 2 litres of liquid
- Weighs in metric and imperial
- Clear male voice
- Adjustable volume control
- Buttons are both tactile and large print
Smart devices are becoming more common in our homes and other environments. Many of these devices are not specifically made for people with disability but still make the home and community more accessible. The list below is not exhaustive, as new technologies and access methods are being produced all the time.
Smart technologies have many uses around the home. Lights can now be controlled by smartphones, voice, or a switch. Different commands can turn lights on or off, dim them, or change their colour. There have been advances in technology to allow for smart systems with different access methods for the following;
- Door automation
- Blind automation
- Window automation
- Ceiling fan automation
- Tap automation
- Shower automation (including temperature)
Many of these technologies can make things easier or assist in areas you are having difficulty in. Discuss with a home automation specialist to find what solutions may be beneficial for you in your home.
With increases in automation, there are also changes to safety and security. There are more providers for video intercom doorbells. These doorbells allow you to communicate with who is at your door. Doorbells can send alerts to your smartphone, smartwatch, or computer through vibration and haptics. There are also more providers of smart locks. Smart locks allow users to lock and unlock their door using a smartphone or smartwatch. They can also open a door remotely if required. For example, in case of an emergency, or if kids are coming home from school.
The range, breadth, and scale of smart devices we can use in our homes are changing rapidly. Technologies can include but are not limited to the following:
- Dishwashers to improve hygiene.
- Robo-vacuums and robot lawnmowers to complete a task from your phone.
- Smart coffee machines to prepare a coffee or tea with a push of a button.
- Meal preparation devices which both chop all ingredients and then cook them for you.
- Smart thermometers that can notify you via your phone when meat is cooked properly.
- Smart switches that can turn appliances on or off from your smart device or via a virtual assistant.
- Virtual assistants to solve issues such as what the weather will be and how long it will take to get somewhere.
The possibilities in this area are endless and take time to explore. Discuss your goals with your occupational therapist and explore together if there is a smart device that may fit your needs.
Sometimes, the best way to access smart technologies may not be obvious. There are different ways to access these tools:
- via virtual assistants
- voice automation
- and through tools such as google home.
An occupational therapist can help you explore ways to integrate smart solutions into your daily life.
Before making a purchase look for some of the following features:
- Large button keypad with high contrast, large print, and tactile button(s)
- Increased amplification
- Adjustable volume control
- Extra loud ringer
- Visual flash alerts for incoming calls
- Hearing aid compatibility (Telecoil)
- Memory storage buttons (some available with picture display)
Many department stores such as Myer, Big W, Kmart, and Bunnings stock Big Button Telephones.
A big button corded phone
For people who are deaf, Deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind, using a TTY can enable communication over the telephone network. TTYs have text displayed so that users can send and receive written messages on an LCD screen. This helps people who have a speech difficulty or cannot hear the conversation on a standard telephone.
Like using a standard telephone, users can dial numbers and have text-to-text conversation with other TTY users. Messages are typed at a rate that suits the individual user for sending and receiving.
A TTY can also be set up so that it works alongside a standard telephone handset.
Alternatively, the National Relay Service supports communication between TTY and non-TTY users. The National Relay Service can also be set up to work through a personal computer. See www.relayservice.com.au
Many models are available for purchase or rental through Telstra’s Disability Equipment Programme. Check with your telephone provider for information on services to people with disabilities.
NOTE: The US manufacturer of Large Visual Display units (LVDs) for teletypewriters (TTY’s) has advised that these devices are no longer being manufactured. The Australian supplier has been unable to source additional LVD units from the manufacturer for some time.
Telstra is investigating options for a suitable replacement for LVDs. In the meantime, stocks are in very short supply.
Telstra encourages customers with deafblindness who believe they may be eligible for LVD TTY’s through their Disability Equipment Programme to contact the Disability Enquiry Hotline for advice. If there are no LVD units available at the time of their enquiry, customers can leave their contact details and will be contacted when an LVD or a suitable replacement device becomes available.
Telstra has a range of accessories available through their Disability Equipment Programme. Contact Telstra direct for further information: www.telstra.com.au/disability
Deafblind Information Australia is not a supplier of any equipment listed here. Some Australian suppliers can be found in our Find Services pages.