What role does technology play in creating a safe, independent living environment for adults with developmental disabilities? Our guest blogger, Ken Wilkinson of Layer 10, is here to answer that question. We’re so excited to be working with Layer 10 on Trailhead Community, a unique multifamily project for adults with developmental disabilities. If you’re not familiar with Trailhead, check out this blog for the details. Take it away, Ken!
In today’s modern world, nearly every space we design includes a technology layer. From campus-wide WiFi to electric vehicle charging stations, technology is ingrained in our everyday lives. This is especially true when designing for a unique population like adults with developmental disabilities (DD). Special consideration needs to be taken to ensure a safe and healthy environment for the Trailhead community.
Design First, People Centered, Product Agnostic Approach
Layer 10 takes a unique approach to selecting the appropriate technology ecosystem for Trailhead. Borrowing from design theory, we begin with the user experience. Trailhead will be home to 3 distinct groups: adults with developmental disabilities (DD), working professionals/millennials and middle income seniors. Facilitated discussions around a “day in the life” of each stakeholder group allow us to think first about how the space is going to be used, without getting bogged down with considerations of specific technologies.
Once this experience is mapped, we then consider the role of technology in creating or enhancing experiences. With the technology design defined, we engage the marketplace, identifying products and partners to help us deliver it. This product-agnostic approach allows us to deliver a best-in-class solution independent of any particular vendor’s agenda.
While we lead with design and take a product-agnostic approach, we always keep several guiding principles top of mind. If we lose sight of these during the project, the technology will distract from, rather than enhance, the user experience.
For Trailhead, as is the case with most developments, personalization and choice are key. There is rarely one solution that will be embraced by everyone. This is especially true considering the varying populations of residents. While primarily focused on adults with DD, they make up only 50% of the resident population. Many of the solutions listed below would not appeal to the non-DD residents. To this end, we will build the infrastructure to support the technology and allow for all residents to opt-in to the systems of their choice.
Safety and Security
- The Internet of Things (IoT) offers the ability to monitor everyday appliances and utilities to ensure stoves haven’t been left on and water isn’t left running. For adults with DD who are living independently for the first time, this provides an added layer of safety and security. It also protects the entire building, since fire and water damage often effect neighboring units.
- Motion sensors can be used to verify movement inside units. Say it’s a weekday and there hasn’t been any movement in the apartment all morning. This could raise a red flag that’s as simple as a resident who’s overslept, or as serious as a resident who’s experiencing health problems and needs an ambulance.
- Security cameras throughout the facility and video doorbells at each unit are additional components that can improve security, ensuring only authorized visitors are on site.
Each resident can opt in or out of these systems and notifications can be customized for each individual. In some cases, such as utility usage, it may make sense for the property managers to be notified. In other scenarios, such as detecting a lack of movement in the apartment, or a rung doorbell, it might make more sense to notify the residents’ parents or a chosen relative.
Additional technology under consideration for the facility includes quiet spaces for residents with sensory issues. These spaces give the opportunity to break away from the community, enjoy a change of scenery from the apartments, and relax with some sensory deprivation. This could be as simple as a sound-proof room equipped with white noise emitters or stand-alone pods, similar to float tanks but without the water, where residents can immerse themselves in a calm, quiet and stimulation-free environment.
Scheduling and Communication
A multi-purpose media room and sports court have scheduling requirements that can be satisfied with an integrated mobile app and community website. These also create opportunities for communicating updates and events to the DD residents, their parents and caregivers; and supports the cooperative self-leadership principle of Trailhead.
A Final Note
There’s no one size fits all solution for technology, especially when looking at a community as unique as Trailhead. Even within the DD community – which will account for 50% of residents – this is not a homogeneous group and brings to bear the key principle of balance between independence and safety. While our goal for Trailhead is to help adults with DD live independent lives, we also need to ensure they aren’t granted so much independence as to risk their safety. Trailhead is a unique project, and we know the technology will continue to evolve as we work through the design.
About the Author
Ken Wilkinson is the founder and managing partner of Layer 10, where he brings more than 25 years of management consulting and IT experience to the firm. He has led strategic initiatives for large organizations across multiple industries, including healthcare, hospitality and smart city development. With two partners, he co-founded Layer 10 in 2016 to address what they saw as a gap in the inclusion of technology early in the design of new construction and adaptive reuse projects.