"The term smart home covers a wide range of home-based technology that is integrated between devices using an Internet connection. From the home dweller’s perspective, a smart home provides comfort, security, safety, accessibility, energy efficiency, and convenience through the use of appliances, lighting, electronic equipment, heating and cooling systems, entertainment systems, and home security solutions. In a smart home, all such devices can be controlled remotely by any desktop computer or mobile device with Internet access, or preset using a pre-defined preferential schedule. They can even be customized on a room-by-room basis. Many smart home solutions can also accept voice commands for the ultimate in-home convenience.
Let's explore some basic options:
- A smartphone should be your first purchase. This may be a "duh" but seriously, a smartphone is a must! Many of the smart home options are connected to an app on your smartphone. The iPhone especially has so many features built in to support accessibility. If the iPhone does not provide enough to fit your needs, take a look at Sesame Enable. This is a touch-free smartphone app allowing you to operate any mobile device by simply using head movements. Take a look at How to Choose the Right Cell Phone for a Person with a Disability if you need help getting started.
- Amazon Echo or Google Home are both devices are an ideal starting point for any smart home setup. Google Home, the Echo, and its smaller companion Echo Dot, allow you to control devices in your house using your voice. All will provide you with the ability to get answers, play songs, tackle your day, enjoy your entertainment and control your smart home with just your voice. You can get personalized help with your schedule, reminders, calls, news and more to help you tackle your day. This is the first starting point to becoming independent. (Most AAC devices can control a device also.)
- Curtains and shades can be very difficult for people with mobility disabilities to operate. You might consider a smart window covering to help solve this problem. Some options include Slide for curtains, Soma for shades, and My Smart Blinds. You might also want to explore this DIY: Voice Activated Smart Shades guide.
- Doorbells can also become a smart device. If you spend a lot of time in bed due to a disability or chronic illness, or if you can’t see out your front windows from your wheelchair or bed, a smart doorbell can help. The Ring smart doorbell has a motion-sensor camera and will show you who’s at the door so you can decide whether to answer or not. Check out the guide 8 Best Smart Doorbells for your Home.
- A door lock system is important if you need to give friends, family, personal care attendants, nurses, therapists or a housekeeper access to your home. A smart lock is a much safer option than a keypad or handing out keys to everyone. Keypad locks don’t tell you if, when or by whom they’ve been used, and it can be difficult to change the combination of there is a need. The combination (or key) can easily be given away to an unwanted person. By contrast, the August Smart Locks uses each user’s smartphone as a key. You can give users admin, guest, or temporary access, or even limit the days and times they can enter your home. The app keeps a log of who has entered your home and when, so you can confirm your kids or home health aide arrived on time. If you don’t want someone coming over anymore you can remove their access in seconds. The Best Smart Locks of 2018 provides a nice comparison chart.
- A garage door opener can be a challenge. It’s easy to lose garage door openers, and the buttons can be hard to press if you have limited hand strength. With a smart garage door opener, you can open your garage from anywhere. (Be sure to check the brand of your existing garage door opener to choose a compatible smart add-on.) A few major brands to explore include Gogogate, Chamberlain, LiftMaster, and NexxGarage. Guide available: Top 9 Smart Garage Door Openers.
- Lighting is one of the best tools for increasing access and visibility in your home. You no longer need to remodel a house just to lower a light switch for access!! One smart plug or light bulb can make even the most inaccessible fixture simple to use with a tap to your smartphone. Smart light bulbs like the Philips Hue give you more options than just “on” and “off.” They can be dimmed and change colors if this is important to your access. (You may need to dim lights to reduce sensory overload or see more effectively in a certain color light, you now have options.) Although individual plugs and bulbs aren’t terribly expensive, they add up quickly. This is where building your home’s network gradually comes in. You can use a Philips Hue starter kit to get your most frequently used or currently least accessible room set up first, then expand to more areas as money allows. (Another money-saving tip: where possible, buy a smart power strip and then plug in multiple devices.)
- Thermostat access is key. A good thermostat can save you money on power, keep your home comfortable, even learn your habits and preferences. A smart thermostat can do this without you having to touch it. I am finding the highest rated thermostats to be the Ecobee thermostat and the Nest Learning Thermostat. There are many guides out there to help you compare what is available. Here is Tom's Best Smart Thermostats 2018 guide. Installing this type of system will give you increased control over the comfort of your environment, day and night.
- Security Cameras are a way of keeping an eye on things if you are away or even if you are at home. For example, the Amazon Cloud Cam works with Alexa. You can stay connected 24/7 by having the camera point in the direction of interest. You can watch, download, and share the last 24 hours of motion alert video clips for free, get notified when Cloud Cam sees activity, see clearly in the dark and use two-way audio to check in with the family or tell your dog to stop barking. They are easy to set up, can stream video to your phone, tablet or PC, and will send you notifications if they detect motion or loud noises. Check out Tom's guide Best Wireless Home Security Cameras 2018.
- For more information, broken down by specific disabilities, go to Budget Friendly Smart Home Accommodations for Seniors and Individuals with Special Needs.
- For updated and changing information, visit my Pinterest board, "Smart Home Gadgets".