Making lives easier for people with disabilities

In his day job, Jason Minton is an IT assistant director at WSU Spokane, ensuring the various technological systems on campus run smoothly and are prepared for the future. But in his spare time, Minton seeks to improve the lives of people with disabilities who rely on smart technology for everyday tasks.

He does that through what he calls the Enterprise Technology for Home Area Network (ETHAN) Framework. Currently in development, the ETHAN Framework could ultimately, “create a holistic view of the home that helps guide technology design and deployment and operation for people with disabilities,” Minton explained one day at the Adaptive Technology Center, part of WSU’s Steve Gleason Institute for Neuroscience, where he helps showcase his technology to interested families.

The ETHAN Framework is the blueprint that would guide the integration of home automation technologies already used by people with disabilities. For instance, the Framework could, in theory, allow doctors to view certain important health data in real time.

Minton used the example of someone who uses a wearable heart rate monitor in the home.

The ETHAN Framework would enable the person’s doctor or medical professional to view historic or real-time health data from the device. For example, suppose the wearable heart rate device connects to the blue tooth technology integrated into wireless access points installed in the person’s home. If the doctor wants to check the patients’ heart rate during a telehealth visit, device data is sent securely to wireless access points installed in the home, which send the data to the health care provider’s preferred data collection point in a secure and timely manner. The doctor has immediate access to the data necessary to aid in diagnosis or treatment.

Minton hopes that tying the wearable medical device to a home’s Wi-Fi network will be seamless.

“The overall goal is to eliminate confusion and frustration that a family encounters when they have technology issues in the home,” Minton said.

Jason Minton talks about his technology at the Gleason Institute’s Adaptive Technology Center grand opening on Sept. 29.

Minton said he is working on fine tuning the ETHAN Framework to account for possible Wi-Fi outages. Right now, the ETHAN Framework depends on solid and secure Wi-Fi access and electricity.

“If somebody loses power, and they’re depending on a ventilator, they might not be able to breathe,” he said. “That’s one of the things in the ETHAN Framework that I want to address.”

While current smart home technologies focus on the home area network, the ETHAN Framework focuses on the person first and foremost. Home area networks are essential for everyday living, but they don’t always meet the specific needs of people with disabilities, like collecting health data and securely sending it to a health care provider or automating a health device.

“When you have someone that depends on a home area network to live, you realize you need to improve it,” Minton said.

Minton’s ETHAN Framework is currently installed in his home, where he lives with his wife and stepson who lives with a disability and relies on smart home technology for everyday things. Minton’s stepson was the inspiration for the ETHAN Framework.

Minton showcased the ETHAN Framework at this summer’s national conference for the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA). He’s already heard from others who are interested in his technology, which requires the installation of cable wires in walls or ceilings to connect to wireless access points. He’ll deploy the framework in the two homes built for ALS patients by Matt’s Place in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. 

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