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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 Craig Hospital works with patients to determine their needs, discusses the options that are available, and then provides the training they may need.


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 Denver company that can assist you with the decision-making and installation process.
  • 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.

Door Knob and Lever Openers

Simplified door knobs and levers can make for easy operation.


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. Purchasing the August Connect enables Wifi control. Phone connects via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, with 4 AA batteries if Wi-Fi goes down. A Aesigned to work with pre-existing deadbolt, replaces the interior portion of existing deadbolt. SUnlock/lock remotely from your phone anywhere you can connect to internet.
  • 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.
  • Averen: R frequency 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.
  • Lockitron Bolt: Replaces your existing dead bolt. Uses Bluetooth low energy so it will keep working during a power failure or Internet outage. Purchasing the Lockitron Bridge allows for Wifi access.
  • Schlage Sense: Compatible with Apple HomeKit technology — which allows you to talk to unlock your door using Siri on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. The Bluetooth holds up to 30 different access codes at a time.

    Wi-Fi Video-Enabled Door Bell

  • 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.
  • GBF: Wireless, video door phone that enables two-way voice communication and remote door release.

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:

  • BluMoo: Controls your home theater devices and media from any phone or tablet. Also streams your favorite music to any audio/visual system. Free mobile app included.
  • 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.
  • RedEye: Connects to your home’s Wi-Fi network allowing anyone in your house with a smartphone, tablet or PC to control your home theater and other devices that receive infrared signals. Can be operated by multiple users at the same time. Note: this device has been discontinued, but is still available on Amazon.com.

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?

  • 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 Partner Universal: 5 1/2 inches by 8 1/2 inches, buttons are 3/4 inches in size; lighted keyboarduses 4 AAA batteries. Also it has a shape designed to sit well on your thigh.

Television Remote Controls: Voice-Activated Remote

This unit is for those who have difficulty pushing buttons and don’t want to use a scanning system. It requires a fairly strong voice.

  • Voice Me: Supports up to four users and a total of 120 voice commands, hands-free and button-free operation. A user-friendly voice helps you through setup and use.

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.

Remote/App Options

These products can only be used with the remote control that comes with them unless specified.

  • HDE: Allows you to wirelessly control any lamp by placing this adapter in the socket.
  • Etekcity Wireless Remote Control Electrical Outlet Switch
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • : 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.


Insteon Products

Insteon is a home automation system that controls lights, thermostats, appliances and security systems through a radio frequency remote, smart device or computer.

Note: Some vendors charge monthly fees if they install your home automation system. You can avoid these fees by installing the Insteon system yourself.

To link one Insteon product to another, just hold and press their SET buttons – one at a time. Each device receives and sends every message to all other devices on the network. So instead of overloading the network when adding more units, you actually strengthen it. First decide which lamp or appliance you want to control. Then select the appropriate wall switch or module and install the app. Directions are included with any hardware you purchase.

Listed below are some of the Insteon products Tech Lab specialists have recommended to patients when they leave Craig Hospital:

Controlling Your Insteon

You'll need an Insteon wall switch or module for each appliance or device you’re controlling.

INSTEON Hub Central Controller: Controls any INSTEON-compatible device with any web-enabled device. You must first install this hub before you can use your phone or computer to control any other INSTEON products.

Mini Remote Control: Provides wireless remote control for INSTEON controlled lighting and appliances.

IRLinc Receiver: Is required if you want to control your Insteon device through an infrared remote. Remember that infrared has to be line of sight to infrared receiver (i.e. the remote and the receiver have to be in the same room). This receiver is required if you are utilizing VoiceMe remote, for example.

Insteon Modules

The following modules receive the message from a controller listed above allowing you to control light bulbs, wall switches, outlets and thermostats.

Note: Some modules require basic knowledge of wiring an electrical outlet in order for them to be installed. Instructions are included with each product.

  • ApplianceLinc (indoor and outdoor): On/off module controls all standard appliances like fans, fluorescent lights and many other non-dimmable devices (no wiring required).
  • FanLinc: Controls ceiling fan and light (re-wiring required).
  • LampLinc: Plug-in lamp dimmer. Features an adjustable ramp rate, preset dim level and local control.
  • LED light bulb first LED bulb to provide networked remote control (no wiring required).
  • SmartLabs Design ToggleLinc Dimmer – same features as SwitchLinc, but with toggle control to match your home’s décor. I/O Linc- RF Proximity Reader – similar to unlocking a door, the reader can trigger a lighting scene or other INSTEON-controlled devices.
  • SwitchLinc: Remote controlled wall dimmer. Features preset on-level, on and off speed control and can receive and transmit both RF and power line INSTEON signals (re-wiring required).
  • Thermostat with Humidity Sensor: Large, illuminated display makes it easy to see temperature across the room. Controls other INSTEON devices based on temperature change, mode change and humidity (re-wiring required).

Note: Insteon products are also sold at large home improvement stores.

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.


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.

  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Pilot One: Uses natural speech to operate appliances throughout the home. Spoken commands control televisions, telephones, lights, doors and more. This unit offers voice training with no computer required. You can also personalize its pre-programmed menu and use infrared programming with your existing remotes.
  • Pilot Pro: Offers 96 unique commands to suit the specific needs of your environment. A customized menu tree can be created for each user. Spoken commands control televisions, telephones, lights, doors and more. Designed for complex home automation systems, this unit also provides RF and IR interfaces and X-10 controls.
  • Possum 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 Things: Lets you easily monitor, secure and control your home from anywhere. You can add as many smart devices as you’d like.
  • Voice Me: Supports up to four users and a total of 120 voice commands. Circular spread of signals leaves no dead spots in the room. Hands-free/button-free operation. With additional hardware, this system also allows you to control your lights and appliances.
  • 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.

iPods

You can also control your iPod by verbal command or through a switch.

  • Accenda Voice Control: Adds hands-free operation to all of the most popular iPod models. Plug your headphones or earbuds into the iPod dock connector and it will “obey” your verbal commands. The Accenda device is lightweight and can be clipped to your clothing or hung around your neck.
  • IScanMP3: Single switch scanning control for your IPod. Activate your switch and scan through all of the functions: play, pause, forward and back, through your play list and volume control.


Additional Resources

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.