Newbie looking for ideas to help make home accessible for parent who is blind

I found the forum today after buying a SmartThings Hub. I need help and suggestions on home accessibility for my blind/elderly parent and my disabled/low-sighted sibling.

We live in a very old home without neutral wires. I am limited to plugin/battery devices. We have iOS devices and one kindle fire so android is out right now,

We have Alexa devices in most rooms. We have some smart bulbs and a smart thermostat. We have an old tv and a Roku. I found a Logitech remote at a thrift store but gave up since it doesn’t drill down into apps like sling.

Today I setup a SmartThings Hub, with connected smoke/CO2 detectors and two ecolink light switches. I’m pretty overwhelmed by all the z-wave devices and what is possible.

What I would like to do is:

  1. when one z-wave smoke alarm goes off have a custom announcement or sound to say where the alarm is. Alexa does not currently do that and I don’t want it only tied to a phone or iPad.

  2. Have a way to ask Alexa for a state - if a plain deadbolt is locked or door/window shut without getting a zwave lock. We have a steel door and a really old sliding glass door.

  3. Give Alexa a command to throw a button or switch or scene to have an alarm sound. I’m worried about hearing across the house (or being at work) if someone falls or needs to summon help. Alexa’s intercom requires you know what the device name is or she stops and verifies device. It I want to have a way to say a command which then sounds an alarm or message to the whole house and to a cell phone.

  4. I would like to be notified via a tripped sensor (at night) if the dog is pacing in a certain spot or hallway. I would need the ability to momentarily disable it if one of us goes through the same hallway during the night.

  5. Detect and warn about motion outside doors (the front porch is covered but the back yard is not) and then take some action (lights, sounds, alarm). Our doorbell is not wired. We have regular dusk/dawn light on the front door and a motion activated flood in the back. Most motion detectors I found had bad reviews or are not listed for outdoor use.

  6. Log and detect what time a pill bottle was moved or opened so they are and I know or can look when they took their meds, I’ve tried so many devices and apps and so far none really work. They either can’t be edited for mistakes, only give alarms and don’t say I found taken…etc. Is there a sensor small enough to fit on a pill bottle?

Any advice or ideas on what devices or solutions you use for accessibility purposes would be great.

1 Like

If you’d like to see some of the project reports that other community members have posted on accessibility projects, check the quick browse lists in the community – created wiki, look down towards the bottom of the page for the projects report section, and check on the list marked “accessible.”

First, do your family members by any chance use iPhones? If so, I would suggest that you look into HomeKit, which you can also use in addition to smartthings and Alexa If you select the correct devices.

I myself am quadriparetic, and use both HomeKit and smartthings. HomeKit is at the present time much more reliable, although smartthings can do more complex rules. Things like asking the status of a window sensor is built into HomeKit. You just ask Siri. It can be done with SmartThings, but the set up is much more complicated, and smartthings itself is less reliable.

The wiki also has a list of devices which work with both HomeKit and smartthings. There aren’t a lot of them, but there are some.

And I prefer Alexa for voice recognition, so everything I personally get works with Both Alexa and HomeKit. That’s more and more common these days.

One other thing to be aware of is that Smartthings can and does push out firmware updates, which will take the hub off-line for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. You can neither refuse nor delay these updates. For someone who truly needs home automation, this is very inconvenient. In contrast, for example, HomeKit allows you to delay updates until a time which is convenient for you.

Most of the questions you have about sensors can be done with either system, so I’ll leave that for now.

With regard to the pill bottle, you’ll find some discussion about those issues on the accessible projects list. Most people find it easier to keep the pills in a particular drawer and have a sensor tell you if the drawer has been opened within a specific time frame. I don’t know if that will work for you, but it’s just much easier to setup because, as you know, of the size of the sensors.

As far as the outdoor motion sensors, it depends very much on your budget. The most effective are usually the ones associated with a camera, including the video doorbells. They use a different technology than the PIR motion sensors. There are several good ones, but they are all in the $150 range and I don’t know if that fits your budget.

As far as having Alexa set off a siren or whatever, that’s quite easy. :sunglasses:

Anyway, those are just my own initial thoughts.


I forgot to mention one more thing… I myself don’t have visual challenges, but I do use text to speech and other utilities designed for people who are blind because I don’t have much use of my hands. In particular, I rely on voiceover on my iOS devices.

In April 2017 (over a year ago) an update to the SmartThings mobile app broke voiceover compatibility. The company was aware of this and said several times that they intended to improve it, But it still doesn’t work well. So your family members will likely not be able to use the SmartThings mobile app at all. I don’t know whether that matters in your household or not, or if you intend to have them do everything by voice.

In contrast, HomeKit works very well with voiceover.

Also, pretty much everything, but in particular any custom voice features that you add to SmartThings, will require that both the Internet and the smartthings cloud be working. HomeKit works locally except for voice processing, and you can do the voice processing via cellular as a backup option.

1 Like