Why is the technology used by people with disabilities so expensive? This is a common question, especially when examining the price of a power wheelchair that in some cases can cost more than $25,000. Even simple technology such as an adapted switch can set you back over $50.
The simple answer is volume. The designers, manufacturers and sellers of these products have a very limited pool of consumers as compared to sellers of everyday products such as a blender or toaster. However, there is a way to get around the high price of assistive technology. The trick is to find commercially available products that fulfill the needs of people with disabilities. One group of products that fit into this category are X-10 environmental control units (ECUs). X-10 ECUs are devices that allow control of electrically powered items such as lamps, fans or radios through a remote control. When the remote control is activated, it sends a radio signal to a receiver plugged into an outlet. The radio signal is transmitted through household wiring to a module plugged into another outlet. Any device plugged into the module can then be turned on or off. X-10 remote controls are inexpensive (relative to most assistive technology) because they are used to automate homes for convenience, like turning on your Christmas lights from inside your living room.
You can find X-10 remotes online at sites such as http://www.smarthomeusa.com/Shop/Remote/x10-remote-controls/ or at your local Radio Shack. For other special needs, devices or assorted products in the disabilities world check out Disaboom. There you will find a marketplace as well as a social network for those with different abilities.
Arlen Klamm, OTR/L, ATP
Assistive Technology Coordinator