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Smart Tech


At home in the modern world

January/February 2017 magazine edition


 Leveling the Playing Field

From wearable sensors to accessibility apps, smart technology is transforming the lives of seniors and people with disabilities.


Advances in technology are meant to make us more productive and efficient. But for some users, technology doesn’t just make life more convenient; it changes the game entirely. By focusing on the individual’s abilities, specially devised devices as well as familiar apps are helping break down the physical, social, and attitudinal barriers that have traditionally made access to state-of-the-art tools and insurmountable challenges. Here are some innovative solutions designed to leave no one behind.



WHO: People with autism, cerebral palsy, ALS, and other verbal communication challenges

WHAT: The Smartstones team is developing a groundbreaking way to give a voice to those unable to speak by connecting the company’s: prose mobile app to EMOTIV’s wireless EEG headset or a handheld sensory device to translate movements and brain waves into spoken phrases and commands.



WHO: Wheelchair users and people with mobility challenges

WHAT: With the Access Earth app, wheelchair users can locate and rate accessible locations and share that information with other Access Earth users.



WHO: People communicating with users of sign language.

WHAT: Graduates of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., developed the ASL App to introduce and teach conversational American Sign Language (ASL). Dubbed “ASL for the people,” the program aims to bring together the Deaf and the hearing communities with more than 800 signs, as well as instructional videos and useful phrases.



WHO: Those with dementia, memory loss.

WHAT: The GreyMatters tablet app is a customizable interactive storybook designed to stimulate memories, encourage communication, and improve quality of life for those with dementia and their loved ones. Accompanied by voice narration and favorite music selections and games, it allows users and caregivers to relive personal experiences by uploading and storing photos.


Article by: Kelly Vencill Sanches (Dwell Magazine – January/February 2017)




Portland OKs 90-day notice for rent increases, no-cause evictions

Portland approved new rules Wednesday that require landlords to give more notice to renters when raising rents or evicting them without cause.

The City Council unanimously approved the rules, which Commissioner Dan Saltzman said don’t go far enough but “provide a safety valve” for tenants facing unprecedented rent increases and low vacancy rates citywide.

During the third quarter of 2015, Portland saw 15.4 percent rent hikes and 3.2 percent vacancy levels, according to city records.

“I wish we could push these protections even further,” said Commissioner Nick Fish, citing state laws that bar cities from enacting tighter rules. “Much of that is out of our control.”

Starting next month, landlords will be required to give 90 days’ written notice to tenants when raising rents by 5 percent or more, or when evicting residents without cause. Currently, most landlords are required to give just 30 days’ notice, the state minimum, when terminating a lease or raising rent.

If landlords don’t follow the rules, tenants could be owed “an amount up to three months rent as well as actual damages, reasonable attorney fees and costs,” according to city documents.

Mayor Charlie Hales said Portland has to try new things. Some 200,000 new residents are expected during the next 20 years, he said. “Are we going to be San Francisco at that point or Portland? That’s what these issues come down to,” Hales said.

Saltzman said not all landlords are bad actors, but he thinks no-cause evictions are being “abused.” He promised to return next year with a review and evaluation of the new policy.

— Andrew Theen