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Electronic Aids for Daily Living

Smart home technology can now be found in many homes. These products are often affordable and easy to install. They enable people with physical and cognitive impairments to have more control of their home and work environments. The Assistive Technology Lab at Craig Hospital works with patients to determine their needs, discuss the options that are available and provide the training they may need.


Garage Door Openers

  • Chamberlain MyQ Smart Garage Door Opener: Wi-Fi based system that allows you to control and monitor your garage door from anywhere using their app. Works with MyQ Home Bridge adapter to provide homekit and Google Assistant control.
  • GarageMate: Allows you to open, close and monitor your garage door from your smart phone and turn on/off any lights that are connected to the system by a LiftMaster Light Control Module.
  • Genie ALKT1 Aladdin Smart Garage Door Opener: Wi-fi based garage door opener that works with Alexa and Google Assistant.

Automatic Door Openers

Automatic door openers are not only convenient for individuals with disabilities, they can also be lifesavers during emergencies.

  • Open Sesame Door Systems: This will open and close your door. You can control it using the included key fob, or you can pay an additional fee for a card reader, keypad, or third party app. It will operate even when the door handle lock is engaged but will not control a deadbolt.
  • GarageMate: This product works with the Open Sesame Door Opener that allows you to control it through an application on your phone.

Door Knob and Lever Openers

  • Brinks Push Pull Rotate: Is an easy to operate door knob that can be triggered with minimal force and does not require the user to rotate the lever. Click here to watch a brief video.

Smartlocks

Smart deadbolts are ideal for those who have trouble manipulating keys to open locks. It can be helpful for allowing caregivers access to your home without providing a physical key. The benefit of a virtual key is that it also allows you to revoke access to your home and eliminate the need to change your lock or collect physical keys. Wi-Fi based systems also allow you to control the lock remotely. Note: your door must line up properly for the lock to engage.

  • August Smart Lock: Uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to provide access to your home. Designed to work with the pre-existing deadbolt. It replaces the interior portion of the deadbolt allowing you to use virtual or existing keys. Compatible with voice control with Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant.
  • Yale Assure SL: Unlock your door using a keypad or voice control with an Amazon smart speaker. Requires a compatible hub and third-party app. Enable the auto-relock feature
  • Schlage Encode: Unlock your door using a keypad, app or voice commands. Compatible with Google Assistant, Amazon Echo and Siri to unlock your door.

Wi-Fi Video-Enabled Door Bell

Video doorbells allow you to see who is at your door and communicate via your smart phone, regardless of where you are. An increasing number of vendors offer a variety of features, so check their web sites for the latest prices and information.

Things to consider:

  • Is the doorbell compatible with the voice control system you want to use?
  • Does the product provide motion detectors?
  • Does it need to be hardwired to your existing doorbell for power?
  • Will you have to pay to store and retrieve video?
  • Is there a monthly subscription fee?
  • Arlo Video Doorbell: There is both a wired and wireless version of this doorbell. It can send motion detection alert to you on your phone when your doorbell is pressed. Hear and speak to visitors with two-way audio or respond with pre-recorded messages. The doorbell has a built-in siren that you can set to sound automatically or trigger remotely. requires a monthly subscription for advanced features and cloud storage.
  • Google Nest Hello: Replaces your exiting wired doorbell and provides video and images day or night. Compatible with Alexa and Google smart speakers with displays. A subscription is required for advanced features such as facial recognition.
  • Ring: One of the most affordable options for video doorbells with motions alerts, two-way talk, integration with Alexa, and cloud storage. Requires a monthly subscription services for advanced features. They offer a wired or wireless version, and a wireless model specifically for doors with a peephole.

Television Control

There are a variety of ways you can control your television. Some of these options include: applications, smart TVs, smart speakers, and remotes.

In making a selection between these options, some things to consider would be:

  • If using a remote, are you required to press and hold the microphone button to activate speech recognition?
  • Do you want to:
    • Control both streaming and non-streaming services?
    • Use your phone or tablet as your access method?
    • Use voice commands only?

Applications

  • There are many app available that you can download to your smart device that allow you to control your TV.
  • Netflix, Direct TV, Amazon, Xfinity are all examples.

Smart TVs

  • Some of these internet-enabled TVs have built-in voice recognition and provide access to free or paid streaming apps i.e. YouTube, Netflix etc. They often eliminate the need for a separate streaming product such as Apple TV or Roku.
  • Purchasing a new smart TV is not necessary if your current one is compatible with one of the options listed in this section.

Smart Speakers

  • Amazon Fire Cube offers the most voice control options including IR functions.
  • Google speakers can control streaming services via the Google Chromecast.
  • Apple Homepod Mini allows you to control Apple TV by voice. Please note, you can also access these voice controls from any other iOS device.

Universal Remotes

  • To use voice control, you often have to press and hold a button on the remote. Sometimes these remotes can be connected with a smart speaker to provide more hands-free control.
  • Apple TV, Roku, Google, Amazon firestick are all example of universal remotes.
  • Be sure to do your research, as a variety of remotes are available for each of these products. Some may have more hands-free features than others.

Television Remote Controls: Big Button Remotes

These remotes make it easier to see and operate the large buttons.

  • Flipper Big Button: Controls your TV with only five larger buttons to prevent accidentally pressing neighboring buttons. This product supports IR TVs.
  • Jumbo Universal: These are large buttons for IR devices.

Low-Tech Options for Controlling Lights and Appliances

There are many low tech and non Wi-Fi based options for controlling lights and appliances. These can be good options if you have unreliable Wi-Fi, or if you are controlling a limited number of devices.

  • Lighted Foot Switch: extension cord with a button switch. You can mount the switch on a table top or bed rail so the button can be easily accessed. You can control up to three devices on/off with a single switch. If you only need to control one device, consider Coordinate Table Top Switch.
  • Wireless remote controlled outlet: Uses one remote to control on/off for up to five devices. This Technology does not require internet or a smartphone. This is an example of such technology.

Voice Controlled Lighting

First consider what type of voice controlled lighting option is best for you and whether a smart light switch or a smart light bulb will best fit your needs. Smart light switches are a better option if you want to control many lights throughout the house. Smart bulbs may be easier is you are a renter or have a few lights you need to control.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you have reliable Wi-Fi?
    • If not, consider Z-Wave or Zigbee products such as the latest Philips Hue Bulbs with which work even when the internet is down.
    • If you do not have Wi-Fi, the Vocca Smart Light is a voice-activated bulb adapter that does not require Wi-Fi even for initial set-up.
  • Was your home built before the 1980's?
    • If so, you may not have a neutral wire in each switch and will need a compatible switch such as Lutron Caseta.
  • Is your light controlled by more than one switch?
  • Do you want a dimmer or motion sensor functions?
    • Not all of them have this capability
  • Are they compatible with the voice control system you use?
  • Do they require a hub?
    • Typically Wi-Fi based options do not require a hub.
  • Westek 150W 3-Level Touch Control Lamp Socket Dimmer: Allows you to convert a standard lamp into a touch lamp. This product is not compatible with LED bulbs.

Smart Speakers and Smart Home Control Options

Smart speakers control your environment using your voice. They can be helpful as a way to place and answer a phone call, use as an intercom system, and control smart home appliances. They can be a great way to play music, set reminder, and create lists. Many smartphones can do this, however smart speakers can serve as a backup in case you do not carry your phone with you at all time, especially in places like the bathroom. Other benefits include many language options nd the ability to customize various voice profiles for different users.

  • Do you want it to have a screen?
    • In other words, allowing video calls and streaming video.
    • Some models with "motions" will detect movement in the room and follow the individual
  • Do you want it to have a built-in hub?
    • Good if you have unreliable Wi-Fi and want to control your ZigBee devices.
    • Amazon products with a built-in hub offer a feature called "local voice control" which lets you control Zigbee smart home products without Wi-Fi (initial setup requires Wi-Fi).
    • Some smart home products require a hub and others do not.
  • Do you want to use it as a hands-free intercom system?
    • Only Amazon products allow this "drop-in" feature.
  • Do you want it to be portable?
    • A portable battery pack allows your device to be mobile if you want to move it around without being tethered to the all. Search online for the latest model, as this products is not available for all devices.

Amazon Smart Speakers

Amazon speakers are unique because they allow you to place, receive and end a phone call entirely by voice. Other smart speakers have more limited calling options. Amazon also allows a "drop-in" feature that works as a hands free intercom system. You can also change the wake word so it is not accidentally triggered by the other voice control systems.

Note: Amazon smart speakers cannot call 911. We recommend you add your local police and fire departments as contacts in you phone. In addition, Amazon also offers a paid service called Alexa together which provides 24/7 urgent response service in addition to other basic monitoring options.
Google Smart Speakers

Google Smart Speakers

Google offers a variety of smart speakers. Consider Google if you are already using other Google products such as a Nest doorbell, camera, or thermostat. If you are using Google voice on your phone, bother devices will wake to the same command. Google does not allow an intercom system with two-way conversation. Instead, they offer a "broadcast" feature allowing you to relay a message form one device to the other.

Note: You can only call 911 if you have a paid subscription to Nest Aware

Apple Smart Speakers

Apple's smart speakers have good sound quality for listening to music but offer a limited number of accessibility features and are significantly more expensive that other options. Beware if you already use iPhone voice control that this smart speaker will respond to the same "Hey Siri" wake command.

Note: You can call 911 without an additional subscriptions or fees.

Other Devices

There are other products that use alternative access methods. For example, switch control or eye-gaze. These options are considerable more expensive and will be prescribed by a healthcare professional.

  • autonoME: Designed for hospitals, residential facilities and homes. Allows you to use your voice, eye gaze, touch, head tracker, and sip and-puff to control, everyday items, including lights, fans, beds and blinds.
  • MEDIAssistant MM115: This computer-based system that controls a variety of devices throughout the home, including infrared-controlled electronics like TVs, VCR's, DVD players, and RF devices. Users can operate this unit via touch, voice, switch scanning or a mouse, as well as through an app on their smart device.

Smart Lights and Appliance Controls

Here are helpful tips to consider when purchasing smart home products:

  • If you are controlling multiple devices (doorbell, lights, fans etc.) it can be helpful to include everything in one application. Research different brands and products to identify these which encompasses all of the devices you would like to control.
  • It can be helpful to start with one or two devices and build from there.
  • Consider whether you want more portable products (apartment or rental living) vs others that require hardwiring.
  • Make sure the product is compatible with other voice-controlled smart devices you are using.
  • Do your research, make sure the product meets all your smart product needs.

The following are some highly rated brands which are compatible with voice control:


Smart Curtains and Blinds

These products replace your current window coverings or work with your existing system. You can often control them with an app, or voice control via your phone or smart speaker. Some allow you to create a schedule for opening and closing your window coverings automatically. Many of these products are newer and we encourage you to read reviews of specific products before purchasing.

  • 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: Some kits come with a solar charging panel to power the device. Note: the roller shades are not compatible with Google voice control.
  • Hunter Douglass: This option allows for more customization with blinds and shades.
  • Ikea Electric Blinds: A more affordable option but does not allow voice control, you must use their app or remote.
  • SwitchBot Curtain: This device attaches to your rod and works with your existing curtains.
  • SOMA Tilt 2: Replaces your blinds control rod and comes with a solar panel which can be used for charging if there is no wall socket near your window.

Smart Thermostats

  • Ecobee4: Comes with Alexa Voice Service for built-in voice control and a more powerful speaker. Adjusts temperature using your Android and iOS devices. Includes a remote room smart sensor that helps keep temperatures uniform throughout your house.
  • Honeywell T-9: Uses sensors to provide uniform temperatures throughout your home. This unit also functions as an Alexa speaker and features support for Apple HomeKit.
  • Nest Learning Thermostat: Works with Alexa-enabled devices for voice control. Learns the temperatures you like and automatically regulates your home's temperature. Notifies you if anything is not working correctly or the temperature gets dangerously hot or cold. Control it from your computer or smart device. Next offers a more affordable version called Nest Thermostat which has the same features, except for the ability to learn preferred temperature settings. It is not compatible with their in-room temperature sensors.
  • Sensi ST55 Thermostat: More affordable, highly rated system reduces wasteful heating and cooling when no one is at home via automatic programmable temperature control. Compatible with Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomeKit for voice control.

Additional Resources

Amazon Home Automation Guide: Provides information to help you 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.