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Smart home technology for disabled people

From controlling your heating to setting your home security, smart home technology could make your daily life easier.

What smart home technology can do

Smart home technology has the potential to help you control your home's:

  • lighting
  • temperature
  • security
  • TV, radio, entertainment and gaming systems

The technology is constantly improving so it's worth keeping up to date.

Getting support

Scope's online community

Ask an assistive technologist in Scope's online community

AbilityNet volunteers

AbilityNet volunteers provide free IT support to disabled people in their own homes on:

  • choosing or setting up a computer, tablet or smartphone
  • specialist computer aids or adaptations, such as Braille display and eyegaze controller
  • technical problems with hardware, software or internet

Call the free AbilityNet IT helpline on 0800 048 7642.

Request support from an AbilityNet volunteer

Choosing the right smart technology for you

To decide what's best for you, ask:

  • What do I want it to do?
  • Will I find it easy to use?
  • Is it compatible with devices I've already got?
  • How much does it cost to buy and run? Is it within my budget?
  • Do I need to buy other products to make it work?
  • Is it right for me?
  • Does it complete the task more efficiently than I can?
  • Does it make my life easier?

Think about how you will install, use and update devices and where you can get support if things go wrong.

Smart home technologies

There are lots of products out there. Some can help you do a range of tasks but you may have to buy and install different devices or adaptors for each one.

You can control smart home devices using:

  • smartphones
  • tablets
  • laptops
  • voice-activated hubs like Apple HomeKit, Amazon Echo or Google Home

Whatever you want to do, check that the equipment you're looking to buy or already own is smart enabled. Find out on the manufacturer's website.

For example, your old bedside lamp will not become smart because you have downloaded an app to your phone or installed a smart hub in your home. You may need to buy a smart plug or adaptor. These cost about £20 each. When it comes to heating and lighting systems, you may need a qualified engineer to make changes in your home.

Smart thermostats explained (Money Saving Expert)

If you have issues with speech or hearing, you may find they are not the right smart technology for you. You can write commands in Google Assistant on your phone or tablet. You can use these commands to control smart devices without speaking.

Google Home

Google Home is a hands-free assistant that allows you to access the internet, play music and control compatible devices using your voice. It costs from £20.

With Google Home you can use your voice to access the following services:

  • hands-free calling
  • weather reports
  • your calendar
  • traffic and travel information
  • set, check and cancel alarms
  • Gmail

How to set up the Google Home and Google Home Mini (video on YouTube)

You will need a Google account to set up a Google Home device. You can sign up with your current email or by creating a new email account with Google (gmail).

If your TV has Chromecast, you can use Google Home to stream some TV and audio content. Search for your TV's model online to see if the manufacturer's page says it has “Chromecast built-in” or “Google Cast”.

You will need to check what devices, including smart plugs and adaptors, are compatible with Google Home.

Google Home product information

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo is a voice-activated hub with a voice assistant called Alexa. The bigger models have larger, louder speakers. Some also have screens.

You will need an Amazon account and download an app to your phone, tablet or laptop to use it.

Most Echo devices allow you to use your voice to:

  • ask Alexa to search the internet to find an answer
  • set alarm clocks
  • stream music
  • listen to audio books
  • re-order purchases on Amazon

With some devices you can also control heating, lighting, security and smart kitchen appliances. Check to see if the devices you want to control are compatible with Amazon Echo.

Echo and Alexa-enabled devices (Amazon)

Other smart home technologies

As with Google Home and Amazon Echo, you will need to research what other products can do, how easy they are to install, what other devices they're compatible with and how much it all costs.

Other smart home hubs include:

Research before you buy

Before buying, it's important to do your research.

  • Look for reviews online.
  • Go to the manufacturer's website.
  • Ask friends and families what they use and what they think of it.
  • Find out if it's compatible with smart devices that you already have.
  • Check what your existing technology can do.

Ask for a trial period or test the product in the shop to see if it works for you.

As with all purchases, check returns and refunds policies. See how long you have to decide if a product is right for you.

Your consumer rights (Which?)

Reviews are not professional advice

Reviews and advice are based on people's personal experiences. What works for someone else may not work for you.

Reviews are not professional advice unless from the company or qualified expert. Only follow advice you feel comfortable with.

Always check if the company paid for or sponsored the product review as it may be more positive.

Last reviewed by Scope on: 20/01/2020

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