The purpose of this post is just to keep everything together for me. (Hints, tips, advice, etc.)

I am in the process of making life more independent for my roommate of 5 years (Brandon or “B” for short). So this will be directed more towards that than anything, although it’s not any different than “walkers” just trying to make their life more “awesome”. lol This project is soley funded by myself as funds are available, so keep that in mind with any suggestions you may have…

Here is a little but about B, if anyone has any suggestions for ease of use of things. Like I said, he is a quadriplegic (victim of a motorcycle accident 8 years ago). We have lived together going on 5 years now and have been friends since we were in little league together. He has some movement in his arms, mainly his left. And that’s about it. No finger manipulation but he uses his knuckles to operate his iPhone and can do most everything with that. (Although he doesn’t have access to that while he is in bed.) He has caretakers with him just about 24/7, including me most of the time when I’m not at work or out camping or something. But the idea behind all of this is to give him the ability to do as much as possible by himself without having to ask someone to do it for him. (Anyone who knows anyone in his position will understand the importance of his own independence) And the fact this stuff is awesome and it’s a fun project for me.

I started this project after thinking about getting an Echo Dot to play around with. Then after some research I found out that you can turn on/off entertainment devices. B could basically control all the entertainment devices through apps and wifi on his phone, but we always ran into issues because he wasn’t able to turn them on. Then I started looking at what else I could integrate into it. Voice automated garage door? Hell ya! So more research ensued and then I pulled the trigger and started my amazon shopping list.

I’m getting close to having the “essentials” put in place. That doesn’t include a lot, but enough to give him some freedom. Following is a list of things I have done so far…
1 - Harmony Hub set up with both of our entertainment centers (living room and garage). I have had this going for a few weeks now and I’m still having some issues tweaking all the bugs out. (A) We can’t access all the channels we want via Alexa (I’m pretty sure that’s just an issue of adding more activities to the harmony hub). (B) when we tell Alexa to turn on/off the living room tv it’ll turn the garage cable box off/on (along with some other buggy things like that). And © the miniblaster we ran into the garage sucks. It has to be in just he right spot to be able to send signal to the LG tv. So we have a wire running across the middle of the floor, which is very annoying to someone with OCD tendencies.(me) lol
2- Z-wave garage door opener. This was a fun project, it was my first introduction to “coding” and creating custom apps. We have two doors (so I’ll have to add another some day), but for now, this works. I still need to figure out how to add a code to this though if anyone can help with that.
3 - Installed the EchoSistant app. We haven’t really used this. I installed it while I was waiting for the updated version of Ask Alexa to be released.
4 - Ask Alexa app. This came out a lot sooner than expected, so I was excited about that! I haven’t been able use it to it’s potential yet though, as we only really have 2 things so far. But I can’t wait to integrate a lot more things into this.
5 - I just received 2 zigbee fan controllers yesterday (1 for B’s room and 1 for the living room) so that will be a project for this week some time! :slight_smile: Hopefully I can get those installed with limited issues.
…this list will grow

Things to come…
The only other thing I NEED to add is an automatic door opener on the kitchen door leading to the garage. (after all, being able to open the garage is kind of pointless if B can’t get INTO the garage.) I’m going to use a SkyLink DM-150 and integrate some kind of zwave button/switch into the push button controller. I’m not sure EXACTLY how to do this, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out when I get to it. (Or one of you guys will tell me. lol)
Along with that, I will be adding a lot of other things also. Wall switches/dimmers, motion sensors, thermostat, etc. Eventually everything in our house will be voice automated, but that’s just for the cool factor. :wink:

Problem areas…
B’s pc. He spends a lot of time sitting in his room on the computer watching youtube and what not. He uses the Dragon program along with a mouse on his phone to control the pc. When he’s in bed, Dragon is all he has though and we have a lot of issues with that. It’s not as responsive as we’d like. Sometimes, (like last night) it just doesn’t understand what is being said. “Mouse 1” is heard as “blue” or something crazy like that. I know one solution would be to get a better microphone since he is about 7 ft. away from his when in bed, but that would cause another issue. His pc goes to sleep after a while which also turns his monitor (TV) off. So he doesn’t want something that will pick up his snoring or any other slight sound and wake up the pc. which will, in turn, wake up his tv and shine a bright light in his face while he’s sleeping. So any solution to this would be great!

I will add more to this as time passes, issues get fixed and we integrate more things.

This community, in my short time here, has been awesome! The support you guys lend and the things you do is incredible. I’m glad to be part of this community and I’ll try to add something to it once I figure out how. lol Thank you all for your continued support! :slight_smile:


I read this and immediately thought of @JDRoberts.
Care to impart your considerable knowledge JD? :slight_smile:


Welcome! Home automation can definitely be of great help to those with limited use of their hands. I myself am quadriparetic (use a power wheelchair and have limited hand function). My housemates have been great. It’s pretty amazing the stuff you can do now. :sunglasses:

You’ll find a number of project reports from people in this community working on accessibility on the quick browse lists in the community – created Wiki. There is a list specifically for accessibility projects that should give you a lot of ideas . :sunglasses:


Are you in the US or the UK? The device selection differs considerably.

Door Openers

As far as door openers, Skylink is very popular and well priced. Just be aware that these doors open and close very slowly for safety reasons, basically the same speed as a garage door. So they can drive the ambulatory people crazy, and you just have to take that into account.

As far as controls for the Skylink, they already sell a bunch of different stuff, including some really good big buttons and motion sensors. If you can get away with just using those, then do, there really isn’t any reason to hook it into SmartThings. And it will just make your life simpler as well as retaining all of the important safety features. Plus to be honest you want a door opener to be as reliable as possible, and that never means SmartThings. Just sayin’… :wink:

A lot of people can push a button like this with the armrest of the wheelchair or with their knee or shoe,


If you feel you have to hook it into SmartThings, we can talk more about it later, but to begin with I’d look at the door openers as a separate project.


If your friend qualifies for any occupational therapy services, then they are masters at setting up the PC so it can be used. (“Occupational therapy” doesn’t mean job-related – – It’s the manipulation of objects in the environment. Everything from Walkers to bath lifts to trays that keep your food dishes from tipping over. And the use of laptops.) most of them are very budget conscious as well. They will come out to the house and can help get the PC set up so it will be usable. Most of them don’t know much about home automation, they are just starting to get into that. But when it comes to control of a laptop, they know all the tricks and gadgets and positioning tips and all that. Typical health insurance will cover two visits a year, although it varies. He will probably need a referral from his doctor to the OT department.

But there are three areas where I always suggest that people who are quads get an OT consultation:

One) physical transfers

  1. making phone calls

Three) setting up a laptop

So that would be my first suggestion for that part of the project. :sunglasses:


Regarding harmony, it works great with Alexa, and you don’t need to put smart things into the mix at all.

As far as channel selection, be aware that there are two separate official harmony/Alexa skills and they do different things.

The most useful one is the newest, the “red” skill. It let you say any channel number, turn the volume up or down, pause, mute, etc. You don’t have to set up any special activities. Really slick. :sunglasses:

So it sounds like you might’ve set up the “blue” skill, but not the red one yet.


I knew you’sd find this pretty quick @JDRoberts, lol

We are in the U.S.

That’s probably a good idea. Although with it being in the kitchen, I’m not real fond of motion sensors, I don’t want the door to open every time I throw something in the trash. lol I will start a new project for that once I get to it though.

He has a phone set up, although I’m trying to get everyone he would need to call hooked up with the Alexa app because she is just a lot more responsive and understanding when it comes to things like that. His computer and phone just don’t recognize his voice like they should without him yelling some times. He also has limited lung capacity, so yelling take quite a bit out of him. I will bring up getting an occupational therapist out some time to go over his stuff again. That may help. Although his main caretaker (Harold) is very proficient with pcs and has helped him setup almost everything I think. I’m sure there has been a OT involved early on, but I don’t think there has been one out for years. So that’s something to look in to.

I have them both downloaded, and yes we can switch to any numbered channel but I was speaking specifically of “turn to fox sports”. “Turn to ESPN” works along with a few others that don’t even have activities. But there’s some that don’t. I guess that’s just part of the “cool” factor I want to integrate.


You can set up a motion sensor as a touchless switch where you have to get really close to it to trigger it. I’ve been trying before that I have one in a box pointing upwards and I can wave a hand over it and that works. I also have some which are at foot level on a little ledge pointing down so that I can roll up to it and my foot going under the ledge triggers the motion sensor. So there are a lot of options with placement that can make a motion sensor an intentional touchless switch rather than just a general zone detection device. :sunglasses:

But the buttons are good, too.

Also, a pricey but super easy solution for the door opener is to combine the Skylink two button Wall mount remote with one Prota Push microbot.



No wiring required and you retain all the safety features of the Skylink device. The microbots are literally just tiny button pushers. You need the Prota bridge to give you IFTTT integration which then also gives you echo integration. One bridge can support about 40 Microbots.

The starter kit is the bridge +3 Microbots. So you’d even have an extra one or two, maybe to use with the laptop in the bedroom.

These things solve problems that are almost impossible to solve any other way without total rewiring. They work great. It’s just that they’re expensive.

Anyway, if you want voice control of the automatic door, that’s the easiest way, although not the least expensive.

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The different placements might be a good option for the motion sensors. The microbots are also a good option though. I’ll have to research the different options on that when i get to it and just kind of play around to find out what would be the easiest for everyone.

Back to the computer situation though, if you don’t mind me picking your brain a bit about that. What do you use in terms of speach to text? Do you also use Dragon? You seem to be VERY profecient when it comes to writing out instructions with links attatched and everything. I’m just curious as to your setup. Although, i imagine you probably use your phone a lot for stuff like that which has better speach recognition.

I actually hardly ever use the phone, it’s just physically very difficult for me. I really prefer an iPad mini for anything where I have to look at the screen and I use my Apple Watch for making calls and sending texts. But I have the ability To roll my wrist enough to activate Siri on the watch. If you don’t have that ability then the watch doesn’t help. I’m now using Alexa messaging also with my family, and I like that.

As far as voice software, I did use Dragon for a couple of years. It worked fine as long as I have done a lot of training with it and I was wearing a headset. With the microphone right next to my mouth. But that meant I had to have somebody else put the headset on and off, and I hated that.

Like your friend, I have days when my voice is weaker than other times and sometimes it slurs, and all of that just doesn’t work well with Dragon.

The Amazon echo was the most amazing voice recognition tech I had ever used. Not just because of distance, but in its ability to understand. I really like it and use it for choice whenever possible.

But as far as just writing posts and stuff, I just use the built-in features on the iPad. It’s always worked quite well for me when I’m close to it and I don’t have to wear a headset.

I do have some ability to Tap the screen with a knuckle, although my hands shake and I can’t be super precise with it. So I use a combination of a bunch of different apple features: voiceover to read the text to me and navigate the screen, voice dictation, and the assistive technology to change complex gestures into single taps. I much prefer it to anything available on my Windows laptop now. It’s not perfect; in fact there’s quite a bit of random capitalization as you’ll note from my posts. I don’t bother to go back and fix all of that because it would be a lot of work. But basic voice recognition is quite good and, again, no headset needed! :sunglasses:

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I use something like this, although it’s not exactly this brand:


And of course I totally rely on what is called switch navigation. That’s how you use the touchscreen device without actually touching it. :wink:

This is a Wall Street journal article from October 2014.

" http://www.wsj.com/video/tecla-shield-reconnects-injured-to-mobile-devices/EC8FDFA1-6D4D-48C6-A808-3812C412C04E.html21 "

He’s pretty picky when it comes to things like that. He has to keep his chair streamlined. Lol
He has an iPhone that’s velcroed to the end of his arm rest just below the chair stick. He doesn’t have any problem using that and eveeything he csn do with that.
I’m more curious about an actual computer application for when he’s laying in bed at night or in the morning and wants to watch youtube or netflix or whatever he wants. Getting dragon to respond is sometimes impossible as you know. And even though you can tell it to “go to sleep” or “wake up”, if it’s “asleep” it will still wake up the computer in the middle of the night if it happens to hear a loud enough noise. (Which doesn’t have to be all that loud.) We could place the mic closer to him and I’m sure that woukd help greatly with recognition, but then it would be more sensitive to his slight snoring in the middle of the night. I wonder if the best way around this is to just put another harmony hub in his room to actually turn his tv off instead of just letting it go to sleep.

That tecla-shield does look pretty sweet though. I’ll dedinitely look into that more with him.

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The original Tecla is great. I don’t know much about the new one, the Tecla – E, but as I understand it the main thing is that you can set it up with attachments to multiple devices at once rather than just one. Which is nice, but for me, if I can make my tablet work that’s enough as far as that goes.

The Tecla E would be super useful for someone who can’t vocalize, because they need switch control for everything. But people who can vocalize can use Alexa for some things and the tablet for other things. We have one community member who can’t vocalize, but can use her toes to type and push buttons. She’s looking for Control devices which are almost the opposite of what I’m looking for. So everybody’s physicality is different. :sunglasses:

If he spends a lot of time on YouTube, a Google home plus a chromecast might be good for that particular room. Sometimes it just comes down to the details of each use case.

I almost forgot, but we were just talking about the wake on LAN function in another thread today. That would put the laptop into sleep mode, not just Dragon. You can create a virtual switch, turn the virtual switch on and off with Alexa, and have the virtual switch coming on have Webcore send a WOL function to the laptop. That way the snoring wouldn’t be an issue. I’m tired right now, but @anon36505037 might be able to look into that for you. ( his mother uses a wheelchair, so he’s pretty familiar with accessibility issues.) :sunglasses:

Here’s an example where someone is using SmartThings and Google Home to turn their computer on and off by voice via Core:

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I saw that earlier today too. One more thing to look into.


Question about this. When turning on his pc, you have to physically click the mic button for Dragon to turn the mic on. Is there a way around this so when it turned on, the mic would automatically turn on also? If not, that would make this useless for B.

It depends on the exact combination of operating system PC, dragon version, etc. which is why this is a really good question for an occupational therapist. :wink:

The short answer is there is always some way to launch the dictation program handsfree, but the method varies, and may require installing additional navigation software. The methods vary, but There will be a way to do it. :sunglasses:

BTW, One of the things each person just has to try for themselves is which if any physical buttons they can use. They might be able to press something with the heel of their hand, with an elbow, by leaning into it, with their chin, with their forehead, with a knee, with a foot. And of course anyone who has a service dog knows that the dog may prefer one kind of button to another.

Personally, my own dog really likes the Logitech pop buttons. these are soft rubber and they’re big, they’re about the size of a drinks coaster. They have an official integration with SmartThings and as of the second generation they also work with HomeKit. And they have an official integration with harmony hub, which is probably obvious. They do need their own little Wi-Fi bridge, which is plugged into the wall.

These are not cheap, but I am able to use them, and my dog is able to use them, which is not true of something like a minimote or even the iris smart button.

The pop buttons come in a bunch of different colors, and they can be left on a tabletop or attached to the wall.

They’re expensive, typically $40 for one button, but for me, they are very valuable. But it’s one of those things that you have to try for yourself to see whether they will work for your household.


Note also that the pop buttons are designed to have three functions: single tap, double tap, and long hold. However, in our case, neither the dog nor I can really execute those with Precision, so we program all three functions to do the same thing.

I guess my point in this post is that there are many many different types of switches and buttons available and if someone in the house has hand control issues you may want to try several different types to see what will work best for them

So i tried to install the zigbee module in the living room fan tonight. At first look i couldn’t find anywhere to put it. So i was just putting the fan back up as it was. After unwiring it and then wiring it back up, the fan stopped working. After looking at it and trying to figure it out for a while, i noticed a place to put the module. So i went ahead and wired it in and put everything back in place.
The fan clicks like it wants to come on, but just doesn’t. With a little help it will start going, but eventually stop again. That’s issue #1.
The second issue is that when i hit the fan button on the wall remote it goes to speed 3. When i set it to speed 2, it turns the lights off. Then back on when i go to speed 1. I played with changing the fan speeds with the chain to see if that helped with no resolve.
Anyone ever heard of any of those issues? I just ordered a new fan off amazon that will be here thurs hoping it will work better. And because i wanted a new fan in the living room anyway, so this was a good excuse.
Btw, the lights work just fine except for the unexpected power loss at fan speed 2.