About talking & smart home appliances
Talking and smart appliances can make everyday activities so much more convenient – not to mention safer – for people with low vision or blindness.
We’ve put together a list of some of these home appliances. It’s important to note that these devices shouldn’t be considered a substitute for professional advice or care. We want to make you aware of common and useful products, but we’re not recommending or ranking them. The best talking appliances for you will depend on your specific needs and abilities.
Talking microwaves can provide audio prompts for setting the cooking time and power level, making them accessible for people with low vision and blindness, but also safe, convenient, and efficient.
The appliance typically has a voice synthesis system and a microcontroller that work together to generate these prompts and messages.
Smart (voice-controlled) thermostats
Smart thermostats have voice control capabilities that allow users to adjust the temperature or set schedules without needing to physically access the device.
Some smart thermostats can be connected to a mobile app on a smartphone or tablet, making them even more convenient.
Many devices today can also learn a user’s preferences and automatically adjust the temperature of an indoor space based on the time of day or whether the user is home or away.
Large smart appliances (refrigerators, ovens, and washing machines)
Large smart appliances like refrigerators and ovens can provide audio prompts for functions like setting temperature and cooking times. Some can even announce the contents of the fridge, making it easier to use for people who are blind.
At the moment, however, most large smart appliances are dependent on an app (and so a smart device) to function. It’s important to note that these apps are manufacturer specific, and the device you use must be compatible for them to work.
Unfortunately, there’s no widely adopted standard and some apps themselves have accessibility issues. The good news is, mainstream brands are gradually getting better in this area.
Specific smart appliances or technologies
Below is a list of specific products that may be useful for people with low vision or blindness. We haven’t tested these products and the list is not a ranking or series of recommendations.
RNIB Talking Cube Clock
The RNIB Talking Cube Clock is designed specifically for people with low vision or blindness. The clock uses voice prompts and tactile controls to provide a simple and accessible way to tell the time.
iRobot Roomba i7+ (vacuum)
This robot vacuum can be controlled using voice commands through Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. It has tactile buttons on the top for manual control, as well as advanced navigation technology that can map out your home and clean efficiently.
Husqvarna Automower 430XH (lawn mower)
This relatively small robotic lawn mower can be controlled through a mobile app that has voice control capabilities. It also has large tactile buttons on the top for manual control, as well as advanced safety features.
Honeywell Series 9 Portable Wireless Doorbell
This doorbell has a range of up to 200 metres and comes with a variety of chime options. It has a portable receiver designed to be carried around the house, which can be helpful for people who aren’t near the doorbell when someone visits.
Lenovo Smart Display
This is a smart display with built-in Google Assistant that allows you to control smart home devices, access information, make phone calls, and play media using Google Assistant voice commands.
First Alert Onelink Safe & Sound
This smoke and carbon monoxide detector doubles as a smart speaker and can be controlled using voice commands.
LG ThinQ Refrigerator
This smart refrigerator features a voice-controlled interface powered by LG’s ThinQ AI, allowing you to control the temperature, access recipes, and even play music. But, keep in mind, all of these functions are possible only by using an associated smart device app.
iHome Control Smart Plug
This smart plug, controlled using voice commands, can be used to turn connected devices on and off.
This smart home phone system can be controlled using voice commands and provides a range of features such as call blocking, voicemail, and caller ID.
There are many devices, tools and aids available to make your life easier. If you need help finding the right ones for you, take a look at our Assistive Technology resources.