Electronic Aids for Daily Living
From the automatic garage door opener to the TV remote, electronic devices make our lives easier. But they offer more than convenience to those with physical and cognitive impairments. They enable people with disabilities to have more control of their home and work environment. The Tech Lab at
Garage Door Openers
- Chamberlain MyQ Smart Garage Door Opener: Uses your home's Wifi network so you can easily monitor, open, and closer your garage door from anywhere. By using its free app, you're able to check the door's status, receive alerts, turn on lights, and more.
Automatic Door Openers
Automatic door openers are not only convenient for individuals with disabilities; they can also be life savers during emergencies.
- Adaptive Solutions is a
company that can assist you with the decision-making and installation process. Denver
- Open Sesame Door Systems: Will release and open a locked or unlocked door handle (but not deadbolt), pause for entrance or exit, close automatically, and return the door to its locked position. Works on a wide variety of doors including those that open to the outside. Equipped with battery backup if your power fails. Comes with a fob and other switches are available.
- Bluetooth GarageMate: Bluetooth option that allows you to open or close your door using the Open Sesame Door System and an app on your smart device.
Door Knob and Lever Openers
Simplified door knobs and levers can make for easy operation.
- Brinks Push Pull Rotate: With just one finger, an elbow or your hip, you can simply push or pull your way through a door. Click here to watch a brief video.
Remote Control Deadbolt Openers
Automatic deadbolt openers are ideal for those who have trouble manipulating keys to open locks. Plus, it’s easier to change a key code than to chase down stray keys from former caregivers.
- August Smart Lock: Use your Bluetooth to provide secure access to your home without keys or codes. Phone connects via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, with 4 AA batteries. Designed to work with pre-existing deadbolt, replaces the interior portion of existing deadbolt. Unlock/lock remotely from your phone anywhere you can connect to internet using August Connect. You can also provide virtual keys to friends and caregivers. Note: You door must line up properly for the lock to engage. This device provides an alert through the app and a flashing red light on the lock when its batteries are low.
- Averen: Lets you lock and unlock the door with just a click of the remote or touchpad. You can control your door from almost any room in the house or lock it easily when you have things in hand. Each lock set includes two remote controls with a range of 30 feet.
- Goji Smart Lock: Takes photos of visitors at your door and automatically sends them to your mobile phone. Uses Bluetooth and also works with slip-on electric fobs.
- Lockitron Bolt: Replaces your existing dead bolt so you can operate your lock via your iOS or Android phone. Uses Bluetooth low energy so it will keep working during a power failure or Internet outage. You can access the Lockitron Bridge while you're away from home and also can provide virtual keys to others.
- Okidokey: Lock and unlock doors by using your Bluetooth 4.0 enabled smartphone. Installs over your existing deadbolt. Comes with a hands-free feature to unlock your door when you're nearby.
- Schlage Connect: Compatible with Apple HomeKit and Amazon Echo technology — use voice commands to unlock your door using Siri or Alexa. Note: You can manage this lock if your voice features are compatible with iOS 8.4 greater devices. Remote access is available for users who have 3rd generation or later Apple TVs positioned within 40 feet of the door.
Wi-Fi Video-Enabled Door Bell
- AugustDoorbell Cam: One-way camera gives you a view of visitors from your smartphone. View camera on your phone at any time, even without visitors at your door. Option to receive alerts every time the bell is rung. Built in speaker so you can talk with visitors through your phone.
- Ring: Allows you to see and speak with visitors from anywhere in the world by streaming live audio and video of your home's front doorstep directly to the free app. Motion sensors detect movement up to 30 feet and HD video recording stores all recorded footage which can be accessed via the app.
Television Remote Controls: App Controlled Options
Some cable companies offer free, downloadable apps that allow you to remotely control your cable box through a smart device. You can even control channel selection, power and volume. Check with your cable company or where you purchase your apps for details.
Here are other ways you can control your television or other infrared devices using apps and an additional device:
- Griffin Beacon: Controls your IR audio, video, and entertainmentcomponents from your iOS or Android smart device. It is battery operated and connects to your smart device through Bluetooth. Requires you to install a free app. We recommend purchasing two sets of rechargeable batteries so you can charge one set while using the other. Note: this product is no longer manufactured, but you can purchase it on Amazon.com.
- Harmony Home Hub: Turns your smartphone into a personal universal remote. By using additional hardware, you can control lights, locks, thermostats, etc. both inside and outside your home. Their website has a list of compatible devices.
Television Remote Controls: Smart Televisions
Smart TV’s connect to your home Wifi network and their features vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some come with built-in voice control. Things to consider when purchasing: Do you have to press a button to activate it? Can you activate it by voice command?
- Element TV:Integrates your favorite content on the home screen- including live TV broadcasts and streaming apps and channels. With the included Voice Remote with Alexa, it's easy to browse and discover new content. Use your voice to control live TV playback, launch apps, search for TV shows, play music, switch inputs, control smart home devices, and much more. Note: You must be able to hold down a button to use voice commands with this remote. This product also works with over-the-air antennas.
- LG: Offers voice recognition. You must pressa button on the remote for TV control and web browsing by voice.
- Panasonic: Offers full voice control. Press a button on the Viera touch padto control your TV and search the Web by voice.
- Samsung: Features voice recognition and gesture control. The microphone is located on the remote, so the voice recognition feature is reasonably accurate. Voice control does not requirepushing a button.
Television Remote Controls: Streaming Media Devices
Connecting one of these devices to your television allows you to stream media, including cable, Netflix, etc. Some of these devices can be controlled through your smart phone and have built-in voice control.
- Amazon Fire TV:Provides 4K ultra high-definition streaming capability and 75 percent more processing power. Voice control is built into the remote and requires pressing a button to activate.
- Android TV: Delivers a world of content, apps and games to your living room. Voice control is built into the remote and requires pressing a button to activate.
- Apple TV:Uses a new operating system to connect to your screen while Siri searches for your program. Accessing Siri requires pushing a button on your Siri remote.
- Roku: Provides access to more than 2,500 channels on demand offering more than 300,000 movies and TV episodes. Voice control is built into the remote and requires pushing a button to activate.
- Xbox One with Kinect: Controls your Xbox One console, TV and cable box with voice commands. Offers voice control without pushing a button.
Television Remote Controls: Big Button Remotes
These oversized remotes make it easier to see and operate the large buttons.
- Flipper Big Button: Controls your TV and cable or over-the-air DTV box with only one remote. With only five buttons, this universal remote is perfect for someone looking for simplicity.
- Jumbo Universal: 11 inches long, 5 inches wide, with large buttons controls up to eight devices, available at Walgreens and Amazon.com
- Tek Pal: Features six large buttons- on/off, mute, channel up and down, and volume up and down. These buttons light up when pressed and stay on for a few seconds. Note: Not compatible with cable or satellite boxes.
- Tek Partner Universal: 5 1/2 inches by 8 1/2 inches, buttons are 3/4 inches in size; lighted keyboard uses 4 AAA batteries. Its shape is designed to rest on your thigh.
Television Remote Controls: Switch-Operated TV Remotes
These remotes are for individuals who can’t operate standard buttons and don’t have strong voices, but want to control their television.
- Ablenet Relax: Controls one TV, VCR or any other device that uses infrared. Provides auditory and visual feedback and controls eight functions with a single switch, throughscanning. Note: has adjustable scanning speed.
- TV Remote Module: Ideal for those with impaired fine motor coordination. Remotely gives separate switch access for five functions.
Inexpensive Options for Controlling Lights and Appliances
Many hardware and home improvement stores sell lower-priced products for controlling lights and appliances. You’ll also find these and many other suppliers on the Internet.
Button Switch Options
- Lighted Foot Switch: 9-foot-3-inch extension cord with button switch. You can also mount the switch on a table top or bed rail so the button can be easily accessed with your hand.
- Westek-3-Level-Touch-Dimmer: Converts any lamp to a three-way through a module and touch pad. Includes 8-inch cord with touchpad.
These products can only be used with the remote control that comes with them unless specified.
- Westek: Allows you to wirelessly control any lamp by placing this adapter in the socket.
- Etekcity Wireless Remote Control Electrical Outlet Switch
- Smartphone Light Bulb: Automates your home’s lighting via a Bluetooth 4.0-enabled iPhone, iPad, iPad mini or iPod.
- Vocca Smart Light: Is a voice-activated bulb adapter. Requires no Wifi, setup or installation. Simply screw into any light socket and use your words to switch the lights on and off.
- Wireless Remote Control Outlet Switch Sockets: Uses one remote to control up to five outlets.
Screw-In Touch Lamp Modules
These products allow you to convert your existing lamp to a touch-style lamp. They can only be used with lamps that have exposed metal light bulb sockets and metal on the base/stand.
- AmerTac-150-Watt-Screw-In-Control: Touch any metal part of the lamp for full On and Off. Compact size is convenient and keeps fingers away from hot bulbs.
- Westek 150W 3-Level Touch Control Lamp Socket Dimmer: Touch any metal part of lamp for three levels of brightness. Eliminates need for expensive three-way bulbs.
Smart Home Systems
Not long ago, a “Smart Home System” was a timer on your furnace’s thermostat. Today, automated systems can control virtually all aspects of daily living. These systems are convenient for all users, but are especially helpful to those with physical limitations. However, these higher-priced options are designed to control multiple items in your home. Their cost increases with the number of devices you want to control.
Here are some things to consider before purchasing your Home System:
- Does it require a hub?
- Do you want to control it by voice?
- Does it require Wifi?
- Can you control multiple types of devices?
- Is it hardwired or does it plug into a light socket?
- Amazon Echo: Connects to a
cloud-based voice service to provide information, answer questions, play music,
read the news, check sports scores or the weather, and more. Amazon continues
to expand this product’s capabilities, so check on their web site for their
latest developments and a list of compatible smart phone products.
- Portable Battery Base for Echo: Provides up to six hours of playback time for wireless use of your Amazon Echo. Recharges using the Echo's power adaptor. Not compatible for second generation Amazon Echo.
- Amazon Echo Dot:Does everything that full-size echo can do. Unlike full-size echo, the Dot can be hooked up to exisitng stereo system via bluetooth or line out jack (also includes built in speakers similar to that of a smart phone).
- Portable Battery Base for Echo Dot: Allows for wireless use of your Amazon Echo Dot. Secures to the Echo Dot using a magnet with no interference. You can leave it plugged in to the power adaptor without damaging the battery.
- Amazon Echo Show:Lets you make hands-free video calls to friends and family who have an Echo show or the Alexa App. Offers the same features as the original Amazon Echo, but adds an interactive display.
- Amazon Tap: Portable Bluetooth and Wifi enabled speaker providing up to nine hours of continuous use from a single battery charge.
- Apple HomeKit: Makes your home products work together and allows you to control them by voice from your iOS device. There is a full list of compatible products on their web site.
- autonoME: Designed for hospitals, residential facilities and homes. Allows you to use your voice, eye gaze, touch, head tracker and sipand-puff to control, compute and communicate with everyday items, including lights, fans, beds and blinds.
- Google Home: Smart speaker with support for multiple users; it can distinguish your voice from others in your home to provide a more personalized experience. Provides hands-free calling to your Google contacts. Also allows voice control of compatible smart home devices.
- LiftMaster Garage Door Opener: Allows you to open, close, and monitor your garage door from your smartphone and to turn on/off any lights that are connected to the system by a LiftMaster Light Control Module.
- MEDIAssistant MM40: A computer-based system, it can control a variety of devices throughout the home, including infrared-controlled electronics like TVs, VCR’s, DVD players, cable and satellite boxes and stereo receivers. The system can use the widely available radio frequency technology to control household electrical equipment like lights, fans, lifts, door openers, elevators and thermostats. Unique screen features large, soft buttons that react to the touch of a finger, knuckle or stylus. Users can operate this unit via touch, voice, switch scanning or a mouse as well as through an app on their smart device.
- Nucleus: Connects you with the people you love whether they're downstairs or across the country. Offers the first touch scredn with Amazon Alexa so you can play music, control smart devices, or make phone calls using your voice.
- Primo: Tailored to meet the needs of each user and can be adapted as needs change. Provides remote control of TV, DVD, satellite, cable set top boxes, lights, curtains/blinds, telephone, intercom and doors, beds, chairs and communication aids. Can be programmed to perform more than 179 functions. Adjusts for volume, brightness and scanning speeds. Simply touch the unit for direct access or use a single switch for scanning.
Smart Light Bulbs, Wall Switches, & Outlets
- Insteon Comfort Home Automation Starter Kit: Just connect the HUB to your existing home router and start adding devices. This kit comes with the Insteon hub central controller, thermostat and two dimmers.
- Phillips Hue Light Bulb: Allows you to program and control your indoor and outdoor lights from anywhere. These bulbs use your home Wifi and work with the
. Phillips Bridge
- Smart Things: Lets you easily monitor, secure and control your home from anywhere. You can add as many smart devices as you’d like.
- TP Link:works with Google Assistance and Amazon Echo to control your lighting and appliances while monitoring your energy use. Note: Does not require a hub and its reliability varies depending on your Wifi strength.
- WEMO: Allows you to control your home electronics, power, water and Wi-Fi from your smart phone or tablet when using the appropriate hardware.
- Wink: Lets you monitor and control everything in your home - from lights, power and security – through a single app and appropriate hardware.
Smart Window Blinds
Smart window blinds are not just convenient, they can save you money in electric and heating bills.
- Lutron Serena Shades: Control these shades in the room with a remote or from anywhere in the world with the app on your smart phone.
- MySmart Blinds: Automates your existing blinds to help you control the security, privacy, lighting, and temperature of your home. Also available as a stand alone unit.
- Ecobee4: Comes with Alexa Voice Service for built-in voice control. Adjusts temperature and comfort settings from anywhere using your Android and iOS devices. Also works with Apple Homekit, Samsung SmartThings, IFTTT, and more.
- Honeywell Lyric T5: Uses Wifi to control your connected home products with a single application. Includes an app that can track your location and adjust the thermostat to operate according to your arrival time. Compatible with Amazon Echo and Apple Homekit for hands-free voice control.
Amazon Home Automation Guide: Provides information to make informed decisions about the solutions and products that will best meet your needs. Sections include: energy and lighting, monitoring and security, entertainment, wearable tech and network accessories.
* The Tech Lab offers these resources for educational purposes and does not endorse any products, including those mentioned on this site. Many others are available. Please check online for additional products, manufacturers and user reviews.