Environmental Control Solutions
What are Electronic Aids to Daily Living (EADL) and Environmental Control Units (ECU)?
A form of assistive technology that provides an alternate means to control appliances or tools in the environment is known as Electronic Aids to Daily Living (EADL) or Environmental Control Unit (ECU). These devices can range from simple to complex. Complex systems provide individuals with the ability to control all aspects of their environment like lights, fans, doors and latches, HVAC systems, entertainment and audio-visual components, and more. Simple devices usually just control one thing like a TV through infrared (IR), electric lights through X-10 or a door opener through radio frequency (RF).
What does EADL and ECU do?
The term “Environmental Control Unit” (ECU) is used to describe equipment that assists people with limited physical abilities access devices and equipment in their living environment. The purpose of ECU equipment is to provide a “technical bridge” which gives users independent and spontaneous control of devices. An able-bodied person operates their television or light, by reaching for the control, and then pressing the appropriate button. A person with a significant physical disability can not do this. ECU equipment brings the control within reach of the person with a disability, and provides a control strategy that is manageable. ECU equipment often uses selection strategies to provide choices to a person not able to access conventional multi-button controls. A common approach is for the ECU equipment to step through a menu that consists of a logically organized range of options, and the user makes a selection by activating an single switch suited to their ability. Each particular environmental control unit has its own features but the typical environmental control unit allows the person who is physically disabled the ability to independently control such things as:
- operate their hospital bed
- turn on/off lights and small appliances
- answer and make telephone calls
- control the TV, stereo, DVD player, etc.
- open doors
- control the heating and air conditioning
Another form of environmental control system is a switching device that allows a disabled person to control many aspects of his or her home environment from a single unit, and the prescription of one may allow people with severe physical disabilities to continue to be independent and to live at home. The most common equipment that can be controlled is a door intercom, telephone, lighting, and domestic appliances such as television, radio, and video recorder. The system can be operated in various ways, from simple hand or foot switches to more complex chin controls, suck- puff controls, and even controls governed by eye movements. Environmental controls can have a major impact on the lives of severely disabled people, not only by enhancing their independence but also by reducing the stress and workload on their careers.
An acknowledged benefit of ECU facilities is that demands on care takers are significantly reduced while the quality of life of the user is improved. Users can switch a light, change television channels, make a phone call, even send an email when they want to, instead of waiting for a carer to operate equipment for them. Many ECU users lead a more stimulating and spontaneous life, whether it be business, pleasure or both!