Standing in a darkened corner of the living room, Jon Turnquist says, "You don't see anything here, do you?"

Then, he steps aside and pushes a button.

A portion of the wooden floor begins to rise, and an elevator suddenly appears.

"This doubles the house size if you're in a wheelchair," he said, explaining how the elevator runs on a track system attached to the wall, transporting users from the first floor to the basement of this brick ranch-style home.

This is one of many adaptations inside St. Ambrose University's new Assistive Technology House, also called "Jim's Place," located in a house at 2126 Brown St., next to the Davenport campus.

Turnquist, a faculty member in St. Ambrose's occupational therapy department and the new director of the AT House, said the house is now a "solutions center" that showcases how technology can help people with disabilities in their homes.

Not only will it allow occupational therapy students and Quad-City area professionals in the industry to see what sort of devices are out there for their clients to consider, but also how they work in the home environment, Turnquist said.

Those devices include a voice-recognition system that can turn on household appliances and make phone calls, which Turnquist is setting up in the house.

In the bedroom, a computerized system allows someone with limited body use to switch on the TV, radio or lights with one puff of breath into a tube. A motorized lift - which runs on tracks built into the ceiling - would allow someone to move from the bedroom into the hallway, bathroom or entry room.

In the kitchen, Turnquist slips a piece of paper onto a small machine resting on the countertop. In a few seconds, the device begins to read a recipe aloud, which could be helpful to someone with vision impairment, he said.

"It's almost like the ‘Star Trek' of tomorrow is here today," he said about the technology available for people with disabilities.

Along with its many high-tech adaptations, the house includes some simple fixes, too. On the back deck, a rope-and-pulley system allows someone with disabilities to raise hanging flower pots onto hooks.

In the yard, a raised garden area is easily accessible for people in wheelchairs, and a vertical flower wall has been created for those who can't bend over, Turnquist said.

St. Ambrose purchased the house about a year ago, but the idea to create an assistive technology center has been in the works for the past 10 years or so, he said.

The house's recent opening coincided with the university's 20th year of graduating occupational therapy students. The program typically attracts about 30 students a year, he added.

Lacy Lynch of Delmar, Iowa, a second-year occupational therapy student, said she is looking forward to using the AT House to "see what the potential can be for our clients."

"It shows us low-tech to high-tech possibilities and anywhere in between," she said. "It's all the things that you can do to help a person stay in their own home."

Colleen Olson, a certified licensed occupational therapy assistant at Genesis West Occupational Therapy in Davenport, said she works with Turnquist and his students to help patients with adaptations they need in their homes. She said the new house near campus will enhance that collaboration.

"We provide assessments for our patients to meet their needs for independence, but it might be that we aren't able to have all of those devices on hand for the patients to use," she said, adding that they often have to order them through a catalog, sight unseen. "This house will let us see those devices. We can take the patients on an outing, go to the house and the patients can do some hands-on trial use."

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