Smart Homes for Low Vision
Last updated: March 2020
Recently I saw a YouTube video of a blind cook who was quite amazing. But what really caught my eye was when she placed a pot in the sink and said “Alexa, ask Delta to dispense 4 quarts of water.” And it did! This started my research into other “smart” or “connected” items that would make everyday life easier and more controllable for those of us losing our vision.
Creating a smart home for low vision
After a discussion with my blind friend about what things she finds most frustrating, I started my search. Here’s a beginner's list of what might be involved in turning a home into a smart home for those of us with low vision.
Biometric door lock
The first thing on my friend’s list is a front door lock. She now finds it difficult to fit the key in the lock, and entering a code would be almost impossible. After some searching, I discovered the term “biometric door lock.” It shows both Amazon and Home Depot have a variety of these. This lock can be opened with a fingerprint, by a code on a keypad, or the old fashioned way - with a key.
The second thing on my friend’s list is a stove with voice control. One which allows her to set the correct oven temperature. The bump dots she now uses on selected numbers on the electronic display help, but voice-activated would be so much easier with no worries about whether she possibly hit another number on the way to feeling for the dots.
This has been more difficult to find, but there now are a few manufacturers who are beginning to use the Google or Alexa interface. My local appliance stores only have them by special order. GE, Whirlpool, and LG are some of the companies that have them available.
Smart hubs and lighting
With the Google Nest smart hub and Phillips Hue lightbulbs, you can control all the lighting you wish from anywhere in your home. From waking you up in the morning to turning the lights off after you’ve gone to bed. You can even turn the light on in the next room before you enter to help maintain your light sensitivity. The smart hub can turn your alarm system on and off as well.
If your local cable company doesn’t provide talking remotes, you can also do this with the Smart hub.
Other smart home devices and appliances
I’m guessing most of us are not interested in turning a complete wall into speakers, but there is now so much more available that could make our lives easier. Some of the appliances I have discovered which are connected include refrigerators, air purifiers, ovens, air conditioners, dishwashers, and clothes washers and dryers.
“Amazon claims more than 28,000 smart home devices that work with Alexa made by more than 4500 different manufacturers, and over 70,000 Alexa skills. Google assistant claims more than 10,000 devices from 1600 brands.”1 Siri is not quite as good at the smart home devices like Alexa and Google but is fast catching up.
Or you could start with a smart plug. Smart plugs connect to an app on your smartphone and allow you to control many things just by being plugged in. So it’s one way to control your lighting without the need for Alexa or Google Home.
I may be a bit behind the times as my most up to date use of technology is asking Siri to phone a friend. How about you?
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