National Star College, a renowned educational institution for students with disabilities, is set to open a groundbreaking £6.2m residential building equipped with state-of-the-art technology. This “smart house” aims to empower students by incorporating voice-activated technology, enabling them to adapt artificial intelligence (AI) to suit their individual needs.
Disability campaigners Jack Thorne and Rachel Mason will officiate the opening ceremony, symbolizing the college’s commitment to inclusivity and independence.
Enhancing Independence and Preparation for Life
Located in Ullenwood, near Cheltenham, National Star College provides education and therapy for young individuals with a wide range of disabilities. The introduction of this innovative technology is expected to offer students increased independence and better prepare them for life after college. The single-storey residential building, aptly named “Building a Brighter Future,” features 13 bedrooms, each equipped with overhead tracking hoists and a range of AI features, including a voice-activated fridge.
“We’re trying to give the students the opportunity to explore this technology in a safe environment at college,” said Maizie Morgan, assistive technology technician at National Star College. “The idea is that prospective and current students are able to use this technology, see what’s out there in the world, and eventually, hopefully implement it into their own rooms and then transition from college,” she added.
Personalized Technology for Individual Needs
Principal Simon Welch emphasized that the technology has been personalized to meet the unique needs of each student. The college understands the priorities of its students and tailors the technology accordingly. While the technology itself may not be groundbreaking, the approach of working closely with each individual sets National Star College apart.
“We understand, in terms of the young people and their disability, and what’s really the priority for them. The technology isn’t necessarily hugely innovative, but the way in which we work with the individual is,” added Welch.
Empowering Non-Verbal Students
One of the students, Jaspar Tomlinson, who is non-verbal, had the opportunity to test the software prior to the official opening. Tomlinson effectively communicated with smart devices using his eyes to control his electronic communicator. Through a single action word, devices and appliances in the rooms can be controlled.
“I think that it’s great because it helps me gain confidence for the time I leave college,” said Tomlinson.
Transforming Lives and Creating Stimulating Spaces
The introduction of the smart house represents a significant step forward in improving the lives of young people with complex physical and learning disabilities. Peter Horne, National Star’s deputy chief executive, expressed his excitement about the impact this new accommodation will have on the students.
“This new accommodation will improve the lives of young people with complex physical and learning disabilities and create stimulating spaces to live, learn, and relax in.”
With the integration of cutting-edge technology into their living environment, National Star College is striving to empower students with disabilities, offering them the opportunity to gain confidence and independence. The smart house represents a significant milestone in their mission to prepare students for a fulfilling life beyond college.