Environmental control systems

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Clinical rationale

Environmental control systems (ECSs) aim to increase the level of independence in the home environment. Domestic appliances are controlled using a single switch or a voice command input into the ECS, which sends an output command to the appliance to operate. Devices controlled may include lamps, lights, air conditioners, heaters, televisions, videos, stereos, doors, windows and blinds, beds, computers, and telephones.


  • There are many types of ECSs on the market. Some options have specifically been designed for people living with a disability. These should be trialled before purchase to ensure they meet the individual needs of the person. Ensure that the ECS trialled in the clinical setting is compatible with their home environment.
  • Various switch options exist, including systems that are activated through a person’s power wheelchair.
  • Other options have been designed for the mass market and are available ‘off the shelf’. These are controlled through a hub, a smart device and/or via voice control. Compatible smart appliances can then be added to this system to provide greater control over the home environment, such as smart globes, smart door locks, video intercom, doors, air conditioners and thermostats.
  • The number and type of devices that a person wants to operate will determine whether they require a simple or more complex ECS.


Joy Zabala, an educator, has developed the SETT framework  to use when considering a person’s assistive technology requirements. Understanding a person’s abilities and requirements is essential before considering appropriate assistive technology.

  • Student/Self – information relating specifically to the person who will be using the technology.
    • What is the functional area of concern?
    • What does the person need to be able to do that is difficult or impossible to do independently currently?
  • Environment – information related to anything or anyone in places where the technology is expected to be used.
    • What are the supports and barriers in the person’s usual environments?
  • Task – information about what happens in the environment.
    • What are the specific things that the person needs to do to be actively involved in their environment?
  • Tools – devices, services and strategies that are needed to help a person successfully participate in their environment.
    • What needs to be included when developing a system of assistive technology tools for a [person] with these needs and abilities, doing these tasks in these environments?1

Further information

Clinical guidelines and information

Clinical practice tools

Product options and suppliers

Support and follow up

1. Joy Zabala. Joy Zabala [Internet]. Joy Zabala; 2010 [cited 21 March 2021].

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