Many gadgets and technology solutions are on the market that can help people with multiple sclerosis (MS) keep independence in their homes. Not only can this assistive technology make your life easier and safer, it can be fun, too. The technology is also getting better and better, with more options and ways to use it.
Voice-recognition software and devices are a growing market. You’ve probably heard of – or even used – voice-activated virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. Tools like this can turn your entire home into a highly accessible place.
For example, you can pair Alexa with Alexa-enabled devices, such as Fire TVs, tablets, and Echo devices, to help you:
- Operate your smart oven or microwave
- Read a Kindle book
- Magnify the screen
- Control lights, fans, coffee makers, and other appliances with a smart plug
- Open apps
- Play music
- Answer the door
- Call a group of people
- Call and text your designated emergency contact
- Lock doors
- Control lights and set up timers to automate them
- Change the channel and adjust the volume on smart TVs
- Control your smart thermostat
- Check the weather
- Set your favorite song as your alarm
- Make to-do and shopping lists
- Check your calendar
- Add reminders and set timers
- Get meal ideas
Apps and Software
If you Google “apps to help people with disabilities,” you’ll see there are thousands out there. They’re designed to help you do everything from find accessible locations to manage your health to improve communication.
Health management apps can track things such as your symptoms, pain levels, and moods, plus your nutrition and exercise. This can be handy information to gather between your checkups. It can help both you and your doctor make better-informed decisions about your treatment.
Because of the thousands of health apps to choose from, it can get overwhelming. A few that are particularly helpful for people with MS include:
- My MS Manager: Free for people with MS, this app lets you track your symptoms with reports and charts that you can share with your provider. This allows you both to get an overall picture of how you’re doing.
- MS Care Connect: Another free app, this one can keep up with your disease activity through a health tracker and short, research-based surveys. You can automatically share your data with your provider, measure your mental and physical capabilities, and compare with other app users.
- Medisafe Pill Reminder & Medication Tracker: Get reminders to take your medication and get it refilled, along with alerts about potential drug interactions. You can also add a caregiver so they are notified if you forget to take your medication.
MS can affect your vision and speech. If you have primary progressive MS (PPMS) or your relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) or secondary progressive MS (SPMS) is getting into an advanced stage, your ability to write, read, or speak may be affected. These apps and software may help:
- CoughDrop: Do you have difficulty with people understanding what you’re saying? This app has technology that literally fills in the gaps so your voice can be heard. You can try it for free for 2 months.
- Spoken: The more you use this app, the more it learns how you speak. Then it can correctly predict what you want to say. You just tap the right word from a list of predicted words to build the sentence you want. Spoken then speaks it for you.
- Speak4Me: This free text-to-speech app will speak whatever you type. You can choose from a variety of voices and save your favorite phrases.
- Dragon Home: If you have a hard time typing, you’ll appreciate this software. It transcribes your spoken words into text three times faster than typing, with 99% accuracy. It works with Outlook, Gmail, Microsoft Word, Facebook, Twitter, and more. You can text, write emails, post on social media, or even write a book just using your voice. You also get the Dragon Anywhere app to use on your phone or tablet.
- Speechify: Maybe reading is getting difficult for you. Use Speechify to take a picture of any text and it will read it out loud to you. You can listen at any speed, on any device.
Mindfulness and mood
Your mood can affect your MS symptoms and overall health. Learning mindfulness and relaxation exercises can boost your mood, help you relax, and increase your focus. Some popular apps that let you do this include:
- Headspace: This popular app teaches mindfulness and meditation, and says these can improve focus and sleep and decrease stress. You can do a free trial before you pay.
- Insight Timer: This free app has tens of thousands of guided meditations from more than 10,000 teachers to help with stress, anxiety, and sleep. Topics include sleep, healing, focus, parenting, and more.
- Calm: Listen to music, meditate, or play a sleep story. Calm also has soundscapes to help you relax, as well as gentle stretching exercises. It’s free to use, though some content is paid.
- Smiling Mind: This free mindfulness app was created by educators and psychologists. It has programs for sleep, stress, well-being, attention and concentration, relationships, performance, sports, and mindful eating.
- Bezzy MS: Experts know that having support boosts your mood and decreases stress. The Bezzy MS app (formerly known as MS Buddy) does just that, connecting you with other people who have MS. There are forums on many topics, plus live discussions. You can use the app on a device or on your browser.
Finding accessible locations
- AccessNow: Want to find accessible locations in your city or when you’re traveling? This free app lets you look up accessibility feature ratings on restaurants, hotels, shops, parks, attractions, and trails. You can also add your own ratings.
- FuelService: If you need fuel but have difficulty getting in and out of your car, this free app may help. It lets you find which stations have assistants available to help you refuel before you head out.
The Kinova Jaco assistive robotic arm is for anyone who has lost mobility in their arms or hands. You can do everything from scratch an itch to pick up your phone to reach items on a tall shelf. The arm mounts on your wheelchair and has 16 movements that mimic the human arm. This device can greatly boost your independence at home.
Of course, some of these solutions have a large price tag, one that insurance likely won’t cover (but be sure to check first). You can look into financial assistance options to cover -- partially or totally -- the cost, including: