Home Automation Aids

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Home automation Aids are those Assistive devices that are used in homes to make every day activities in the homes easier for people with Mobility Impairments. No matter how technologically behind-the-times you think you are, you likely use some form of automation in your home every day. Typical examples of basic automation include Voice Operated TV's, automatic door & garage-door openers, timers on a coffee machine & remote controls.

When we talk about home automation and smart homes, the capabilities go quite a bit further. And instead of individual devices working independently, a smart home integrates multiple sub-systems that are all controlled by a master home automation controller, which receives input from all devices around the home, issues commands & controls everything.

Below are a variety of home automation aids that can make life easier for individuals with mobility impairments:

Automatic door openers

An Automatic door opener is a handy Assistive device to have. There are a wide variety including devices for gates, both sliding & swing gates.  A swing-door operator, sometimes called swing-door openers or automatic swing-door operators. This device operates a swing door for pedestrian use, it opens or helps open the door automatically, waits, then closes it.


There are 3 basic types of swing door operators:

  • Full Energy – It opens and closes the door at full speed.
  • Low Energy – It opens and closes the door at reduced speed to limit the kinetic energy of the moving door to levels deemed safe for disabled users.
  • Power Assist – This is a version of the low-energy operator. It doesn't open the door; instead, it lets the user open the door manually at a reduced force, compared to opening against a standard door closer. It closes the door with the same speed limitations as a low-energy operator.


Full Energy operators are typically used on the outside doors of medium-sized retail business. (Larger retail businesses prefer sliding door operators.) Low Energy operators are typically used where a simple door closer is sufficient for able users, yet it is necessary to add access to disabled users: small businesses, apartments, bathrooms.

The door operator may be triggered in various ways:Push Button

  1. Approach sensor (such as a radar sensor) – the door opens when a user approaches it.
  2. Pushbutton – the door opens when a user presses a button.
  3. Push-&-go – the door opens fully when the user begins opening it.
  4. Access control – the door opens when the an access control system determines the user is authorized to go through.

A trigger from any of the above requests that the door be opened or reopened if it was closing.


Sensors can be used to prevent the door from coming into contact with a user. Full Energy operators require at least 3 sensors. Low-energy operators are not required to have safety sensors, as the door is limited by the reduced moving speed. Previously sensors have been simply floor mats that sense the weight of a user, today, infrared safety sensors are normally used.

Four types are commonly used:

  • Header mounted presence sensor – Mounted above the door, on the approach side, it detects the presence of a person standing in front of the door.
  • Approach side, door mounted sensor – Mounted on the approach side of the door itself, used as the door is closing to detect a user in the way of the closing door. In that case, the operator either stops the door or reopens it.
  • Swing side, door mounted sensor – Mounted on the swing side of the door itself, used as the door is opening to detect a user in the way of the opening door. In that case, the operator stops the door.

Opening technologies

The majority of the operators open the door directly or through an arm:door opening kit

  • Overhead concealed mount – the operator is mounted above the door & rotates the door directly, through its pivot.
  • Surface mount, push (scissor arm) – the operator is mounted on the wall above the door, on the approach side & pushes the door with a linkage of 2 arms.
  • Surface mount, pull (track) – the operator is mounted on the wall above the door, on the swing side and pulls the door with an arm whose end slides in a track mounted on the door.

Variations on the above does exist.

Operators use various internal technologies.

  • Some are built on top of a standard door closer. To open the door, the operator forces the closer in the opening direction. Then, the closer closes the door. The user may open the door manually, using just the door closer. In case of power failure while the door is open, the closer itself closes the door.
  • Some are built without a door closer. The motor opens & closes the door through reducing gears. The operator may or may not include a return spring to close the door in case of power failure while the door is open.

Operators are often categorized by the means by which the motor's energy is applied.

  • Electromechanical – the motor uses purely mechanical means to open the door: gears, cams, levers & such.
  • Electro-hydraulic – the motor drives a hydraulic pump, which pressurizes the oil in a door closer, which in turn turns the door closer & opens the door. It has a reputation of being prone to oil leaks. Electro-hydraulic types are inherently quiet & smooth during manual opening, as the motor and pump are off.
  • Electro-pneumatic – the motor drives an air compressor and may be located away from the door. The air pressure is used to drive the operator above the door. This type is not common, and noise can be a factor if compressor is located close to a door.

Of the electromechanical types, two approaches are used:Voice controlled TV

  • Disengaging – the motor driven mechanism (the opener portion) is not joined to the closer, but only engages the closer when it is needed to open the door. When opening the door manually, the opener portion is still, so the opening is smooth & quiet.
  • Permanently engaged – the motor driven mechanism (the opener portion) is always joined to the closer (if present) and to the door. When opening the door manually, the user is also driving the opener portion, so the opening is rough & noisy.

Voice Controlled TV's

New sophisticated Smart Interaction technology enables you to operate your TV without pushing a button. You can easily control functions such as turning on/off your TV, changing channels, accessing apps & navigating the web by using simple voice commands such as:

  • Change the channel and volume. "Channel Up"
  • Simply say the name of services. "Smart Hub"

A smart TV, is a television set or set-top box with integrated Internet and interactive "Web 2.0" features. Smart TV is a technological convergence between computers and flatscreen television sets and set-top boxes. Besides the traditional functions of television sets and set-top boxes provided through traditional broadcasting media, these remote controldevices can also provide Internet TV, online interactive media, over-the-top content (OTT), as well as on-demand streaming media, and home networking access.

To find out more about Smart TV's, & other Television & Music Aids, visit our section: Television & Music Aids.

Home automation

Home automation is being implemented into more & more homes of older adults & people with disabilities in order to maintain their independence & safety. These smart homes allow older adults & people with disabilities to stay in their homes where they feel comfortable, instead of moving to a costly health care facility For the disabled, smart homes give them opportunity for independence, which will help them gain confidence & determination. home automation houseSmart homes can also provide both older adults & people with disabilities with many different types of emergency assistance systems, security features, fall prevention, automated timers, & alerts. These systems allow for the individual to feel secure in their homes knowing that help is only minutes away. Smart home systems will make it possible for family members to monitor their loved ones from anywhere with an internet connection.

There are a wide variety of devices that can be controlled by having your home fully automated, these devices include: your alarm, blinds, fireplace, lights, & music, to name just a few.  

These Home automation devices can be controlled in 2 ways:

  • Timed Events
  • Triggered Events

Timed Events

Most home automation systems integrate an astronomic time clock. By knowing a home's geographic location, the astronomic time clock keeps up with changing sunrise & sunset events & syncs its clock over the Internet to remain accurate. With this feature, the home can perform tasks at specific times every day, like raising living room shades at 8:00 a.m., or adjust settings based on sunrise/sunset times, like turning on outside lights 15 minutes before sunset.

Triggered Eventshome autimation-trigger event

Triggered events are actions that the automation system executes based on something happening: a trigger. Common triggers include:

  • A button press - when I press this button, do this action
  • A door opening - when this door opens, turn on the light
  • Motion being detected - if there is no motion for 5 minutes, turn off this light
  • A sensor tripping - if the temperature in this room exceeds 80 degrees, send me an email

By combining a variety of timed and triggered events, there is almost nothing a smart home can't do. When combined with conditional logic - if this, then this, else this - the system becomes even more powerful. A possible command might be: IF I press this button, AND the time is between midnight and 5: a.m., THEN turn on light to 50%, ELSE turn on light to 90%.   

For your home to be a smart home, you need to integrate a variety of sub-systems. The most common elements of a home automation system include:

Lightinghome management system

  • Turn on a single light, a group of lights or every light.
  • Lights can be set to the desired level at each location.
  • Smart switches/dimmers are available to control practically any kind of lighting load.
  • Lighting control can be retrofitted into virtually any home.


  • Replace your existing manual shades with motorized models that can respond to commands from your automation system.

HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning)

  • Save energy by automatically raising or lowering temperature set points to avoid heating or cooling an empty home.
  • HVAC control be retrofitted into virtually any home.


  • On top of calling a monitoring company and alerting authorities, a security system can be integrated as part of a home automation system.


  • Control your home's landscape irrigation system.

Pool/Spahome automation controller

  • Pre-heat your pool or spa before you get home so that the water is ready when you arrive.
  • Be notified if there is some failure in your pump system so you don't return home to find your own Black Lagoon.


  • You can play your favorite music in every room of the home with a single button press.
  • Be welcomed home every night with your favorite music.

With a home automation system in your home, you can perform elaborate functions from across the house or from the other side of the world via the Internet. From your mobile device, one button press can disarm your alarm, lower the blinds, turn on the fireplace, dim the lights, heat the spa, and turn on some romantic music.

VoQoL Project

VOice activated Quality Of Life (VoQoL) in the Western Cape

The VoQoL project provides a life-changing improvement in the independence and quality-of-life for people with physical disabilities through use of voice-activated technology.

To support us please go to

The QuadPara Association of the Western Cape (QAWC) in partnership with specialist technology provider, Coral Tech, is running a pilot project at three residential care facilities in the Greater Cape Town area for individuals with physical disabilities - QAWC Self-VoQoL AdvertHelp-Centres, Turfhall Cheshire Home and Eric Miles Cheshire Home. Three residents currently utilise the VoQoL voice activated technology to independently accomplish many everyday activities which they have been unable to complete previously. These activities include:

  • Turning room lights on and off (including dimming)
  • Turning on a TV and switching between channels
  • Turning on a radio, heater, fan or other wall charged device
  • Requesting and playing local radio stations
  • Getting general information such as weather and news

“Where my wheelchair is my legs, VoQoL is my hands”
Anthony Ghillino - C4 Quadraplegic, VoQoL Pilot and user

QAWC are seeking funds to install the VoQoL system in 62 rooms to improve the quality of life of over 100 member residents living in supported residential homes in Durbanville, Turfhall and Milnerton. Since the launch of the pilot program, QAWC members have expressed an overwhelming demand to utilise the benefits of the VoQoL technology.  By implementing this technology, we estimate we will save over 1000 hours of staff time per day!

For more information or to get involved please email


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