Helping set up the new Assistive Technology Lab at Cobb Senior Services are, from left, Tara Brewer (Program Specialist), Jobcy Alexander (Nutrition Program Coordinator), Dawn Hedley (Life University Intern) and Jack Thompson (Nutrition Program Leader). Pictured are some of the mid- to high-tech items that can be used at home or at work. These include: a low vision reader (looks like a computer) that magnifies text; a Chattervox that amplifies your voice so you can speak loudly; an iPad with a Good Grips case that makes it easier to hold; a cell phone flasher that rings loudly and flashes lights when your phone rings; a Reminder Rosie alarm clock that reminds you about your medication; a low vision keyboard. CONTRIBUTED BY: Cobb Senior Services.

Assistive tech lab now open

If you’re curious about those high-tech, voice-con-trolled devices like the Amazon Echo, now you can try them out in person.

Cobb Senior Services recently opened its new assistive technology (AT) lab where you can try out smart home products like the Echo, as well as other items designed to make daily living more manageable for anyone with limitations due to aging or disability.

Assistive technology is any item that makes your life easier, no matter your age or ability, said Cobb Senior Services Director Jessica Gill. “And for individuals with a disability, technology makes life possible so that they can fully participate, including at school, at work, at home and in the community, ” she said.

The lab is set up as a livable learning center inside the Cobb Senior Services building, 1150 Powder Springs St., Marietta. Visitors can roam through the “house” and try out various devices to meet their needs. While nothing is for sale at the lab, a list of resources is be available, and trained volunteers can explain and demonstrate the products.

“I feel like a kid in a candy shop, ” Gill said recently, as staffers and interns were busy setting up the lab and learning how to use the equipment. “It’s so exciting to be one of the few places to help people access this technology and to be on the precipice of all this great stuff.”

Products will range from simple solutions like adaptive eating utensils, motion-detected night lights and skid-resistant rugs to the more complex, like the voice-controlled smart home devices.

The free lab is open by appointment for those in need, their caregivers and family members, as well as the public in general. Reservations for the open house and appointments for a lab visit can be made at 770-528-5350.

Cobb was one of four sites statewide — and the only one in metro Atlanta—selected by the Atlanta Regional Commission to receive federal grant money as a host facility for an AT lab. While there are other similar AT programs in Fulton and DeKalb counties, there are no programs easily accessible for residents of Cobb, Douglas and Cherokee counties, which is why the lab is coming to Cobb, Gill said.

ARC is also funding labs in Brunswick and Rome and one in west central Georgia.

Cobb’s lab is also being supported by Georgia Tech’s Tools for Life, Friends of Disabled Adults and Children (FODAC) and Chattahoochee Technical College’s Occupational Therapy Assistant program.

Gill said one in five Georgians have some type of disability that limits their ability to live independently. The goal of the lab is to increase awareness of the technology available, and how to use it and access it.

Tools for Life is assisting in setting up the lab and providing training on all the equipment so lab volunteers can demonstrate the products. Some items — such as a stair lift and chair lift — have been donated by businesses. Gill said she expects the lab to grow over time, with more products coming through donations and Tools for Life keeping up with and recommending the latest products to show.

The high-tech adaptive tools are already proving to be a magnet for aging baby boomers not yet ready to admit they might need a little assistance.

“It’s interesting, as I’ve been out and talking about assistive technology, it’s opened doors for conversations about aging that wouldn’t have happened before. Men in particular are coming over and asking questions because they like the gadgets, ” Gill said.

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