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United Nations org honors LADD for 'Smart Living' program that helps people live independently

People looking at a smart fridge
LADD ISS Team Member Bilal Ahmad demonstrates the features of a smart refrigerator with Find-A-Way resident Leah Alexander and LADD DSP, LaKisha McClure.

A United Nations-backed organization is honoring LADD for its Smart Living program which helps adults with developmental disabilities live independently. Zero Project is an international organization tasked with pursuing the goals of Article 32 of the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

LADD supports 700 people living with developmental disabilities, assisting with housing, employment and other means of independence. In 2020, the agency launched its first "smart home," a pilot house in its Smart Living "Forever, Home" initiative to give people living with disabilities the chance to live on their own while still receiving necessary supports and services.

Four people lived — and still live — at that home in Anderson Township, and other Smart Living homes have been added.

"Over the last three years, we've put 50 people onto the cutting edge system and platform who have successfully received services," explains Susan Brownknight, CEO. "Now we are poised to expand dramatically. We've really worked out the kinks in the service, and are building on all of the lessons learned over the last three years to be able to scale this on a national level."

RELATED: Smart home provides independence for people living with disabilities

As WVXU reported in 2020, the Smart Living homes include every smart technology you can think of, from toothbrushes that transmit brushing data to a refrigerator that can track its contents and provide recipes, and sensors that can detect health emergencies.

Residents can get reminders to take medications, scheduling assistance, or request help via video chat from tablets in the home. There are also sensors that detect movements, allowing off-site monitors to determine if help is needed. The pilot included wearable technologies like smart watches and rings, enabling people to go out into the community and still have access to supports they may need.

"(Xavier University) took a look at the work we were doing over three years, and found that compared to traditional models, not only are folks more independent (and) have better outcomes as a result of this type of service, but it is dramatically more efficient and affordable to deliver that service in the community than a traditional service model," Brownknight says.

LADD is one of 71 groups from around the world — and just eight from the USA — being recognized by Zero Project at the United Nations in Vienna. Brownknight is in Europe to accept an award and present on the Smart Living program.

RELATED: People supported by LADD have been 'valiant' and 'resilient' through the pandemic

She says the Smart Living format is scalable and could be adopted around the country and overseas.

"While this is an incredible honor and great opportunity, the foundation of all of this is the fact that folks deserve equal access to community living, to employment, and to the opportunity to give back and be full members of our society and their neighborhoods," adds Brownknight. "While it's a great honor, there's still a lot of work to be done."

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.