EADLs: Control at Your Fingertips

by Jan Blaustone on September 1, 2005 - 3:43pm

QUEST Vol. 12, No. 5

Life really can be like a box of chocolates.

Not long ago, when a wall switch, fan switch, thermostat, VCR, door, lamp, telephone or bed control was out of reach, or operating it took more strength than you had, you went without.

Enter the age of "smart" technology and suddenly life is much sweeter. Now, electronic magic puts operation of all these devices back into your hands with easy-to-manage controls.

Remote button
The author presses a remote button that signals a battery-operated Power Ease remote by Cepia to open or close her window blinds (below).
Remote-controlled blinds

The difference can be as simple as installing a battery-operated remote that tilts window blind slats. The Power Ease made by Cepia does just that. It sells for less than $20 at most home improvement stores and installs easily using Velcro.

On the other end of the spectrum are customized environmental control units (ECU) like those offered by Quartet Technology of Massachusetts. Although Quartet's ECUs sell for several thousand dollars each, they require no special wiring, operate by remote control switch or are voice-activated.

These high-end ECUs keep you in complete control of everything in your home (no matter where you are) from your sprinklers, heating or cooling system, computer or security system, to your appliances, lighting or intercom. Additionally, they don't interfere with a devices typical mode of operation, so other household members can operate things as they normally would.

Technology today offers endless possibilities for every need and every size pocketbook. The more optional modes of operation you choose, the more independence you gain. You don't have to rewire your home or do any extensive programming; in fact, most ECUs are plug-and-play user-friendly.

Quartet defines the modern-day ECU as an electronic device that allows even the most handicapped persons to manipulate and control their surroundings, making it possible for them to perform many of the daily tasks which they normally must depend on others to do for them.

What's in a name?

While the definition hasn't changed, insiders say the name has, and for good reason.

There is a push in the industry to refer to ECUs now as an electronic aid to daily living or EADL, Quartet's President/CEO Michael Rourke said. Occupational and physical therapists led the charge for the name change because obtaining insurance funding of an aid to daily living (ADL) is commonplace but not so when using the ECU terminology.

The ECU is not a luxury item, Rourke said. It's an electronic version of an ADL. It can make the difference of someone living at home or not, attending school or working outside the home or not.


Last year many people were introduced to what EADLs can do to enhance independence and quality of life when ABC featured Quartet Technology's Simplicity Series EADL on an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Man using a voice-activatated television
This man uses a voice-activated Simplicity All-in-One EADL from Quartet Technology to control his television set.

Quartet has been designing and manufacturing assistive technology for individuals with physical limitations for more than 20 years. Its products became known to millions when the program showed how the renovation of a home using EADL technology left a family member with quadriplegia in complete control of doors, entertainment systems, lighting, heating and cooling, etc.

In addition to making many aspects of life accessible to the person with a disability, the EADL system relieved others in the family of many of the tasks they'd performed for him.

The Simplicity Series EADL offers many options, including hands-free telephone and systems activated by either voice or switch. The latter is ideal for people whose voices change in quality over time or even over the course of a single day. Remote control features allow you to operate the system from anywhere in your home or office without moving the EADL or being tethered to it by extension cords.

SAJE Technology of Illinois offers video demonstrations of its EADL products on its Web site, including hands-free operation of doors, the entertainment center, lighting and an electronic bed. SAJE's PC-based Powerhouse series also features voice-command operation of appliances, telephone, security systems, and the Freedom Bed, an automated patient rotation bed.

You can control a single device or selected devices in a group or zone by a voice command that you specify. The system accommodates an unlimited number of voice commands or allows remote Web access. The Powerhouse Home EADL starts at $4,500, and the Powerhouse Roommate EADL for single-room solutions starts at $2,500.

Clusters, creams or caramels?

When you're researching the best EADL for your home or office, there are several things to consider. Some recommendations from Quartet Technology include:

  • Look for the ability to customize or combine the control (input) devices to meet your specific needs. If your voice isn't consistent, consider an EADL that operates by both voice activation and switch activation.
  • When considering an EADL that operates by computer, be aware that when the computer crashes, so will your EADL. Look for a stand-alone EADL that functions independently from your computer.
  • Especially in the case of progressive neuromuscular diseases, be sure the system can be modified to meet your changing needs, such as replacing a standard switch with a sip-and-puff switch or a mounted microphone with a lapel mic or headset.
  • You may also want to add new devices to your system. Will you be able to add such things from your home, or will your EADL require returning it to the manufacturer for modifications if you purchase a new television?
  • Be sure your EADL has a battery backup and replace your batteries about every two years. If you ever lose power in the house, a battery backup will ensure that you can still use the telephone in case of an emergency.
Carlton switch
A Carlon switch and remote can be purchased at many home improvement stores.
U-Control III
The U-Control III from Words+ attaches to a laptop or speech-generating device. Shown here with a voice amplifier, this infrared remote control lets you control TV, stereo, lights and other appliances.

If you don't require a huge system but need assistance with a few things, help is out there.

Lamson Home Product's Carlon brand line of electrical products for the do-it-yourself consumer offers wireless solutions to anything that plugs into a standard wall outlet. Included are remote wall switches for hard-to-reach lamps, indoor-outdoor remote-controlled switches for powering lights or virtually any device with a standard plug, wireless remote light sockets and dimmers, wireless motion-activated light controls, and more; most for under $30 if you shop around. Their products sell at home improvement and hardware stores or online (see EADL Resources).

If you like the empowering quality and pricing that the Carlon products offer but require the operation to be voice-activated, then you may want to check out the IntelaVoice line made by VOS Systems of California.

IntelaVoice products simply plug into any standard household outlet. You can plug in one for each of your lights, dimmers, small appliances or infrared devices that you want to control. The IntelaVoice features speaker-independent operation so it works with anyone's voice, in all languages, and with all power sources including international. The IntelaVoice products range in price from $30 to $50.

Future's so bright

As the evolution and awareness of EADLs increase, so will the availability. But, like other hot products, not all EADLs will be sold by reputable dealers. Becoming educated and asking the right questions will help you determine whether dealers are knowledgeable and well-trained.

Don't be afraid to ask for customer referrals. Can you pick up the phone and speak to a representative or engineer familiar with the product? What's the average life span of the system? Be sure to inquire about a dealer's policies on service and the all-important customer support.

Other businesses sell EADLs but do they design, engineer, manufacture and support their products? Rourke warned. "Are they continually upgrading and improving their products? At Quartet, our goal is to stay up on the very latest in technology and customize our product line to meet the needs of the consumer. We offer stand-alone embedded systems that you can control under any situation from a power outage to a fire. It has to be safe and completely reliable. There is no such thing as too good."

Rourke said the typical life expectancy of Quartet's EADLs is 18 to 20 years.

Try out an EADL. I started small and purchased the blind tilt control. Operating plantation blinds from my wheelchair behind my desk, I couldn't be happier ... until I graduated to the plug-in wireless remote for my floor lamps.

Pass the chocolates!

Jan Blaustone, a writer and teacher in Nashville, Tenn., has limb-girdle muscular dystrophy.

Financing the EADL

RESNA Technical Assistance Project
(703) 524-6686
RESNA offers low-interest loans for assistive technology.

Be sure to check with the Veterans' Administration if you qualify.

Some insurance companies assist with the cost of an EADL, as do various private nonprofit organizations.


Products from these companies can be found at home improvement stores or online.

(800) 225-9319
push button for blinds

Lamson Home Products (Carlon)
(800) 3-CARLON
wireless remote wall switches, light sockets and dimmers, and more

Lord Henry Enterprises (Security 2010)
(800) 366-7235
dimmers, wireless remote controls

Pro Bed
(604) 852-3096
an automated patient rotation bed with SAJE's voice-command operation feature

Quartet Technology
(978) 649-4328
ECU systems, switches and accessories

Safety Technology International
(800) 888-4STI
Click "Buttons and Switches."

SAJE Technology
(847) 756-7603
voice-activated EADLs; check for video demonstrations

Shop From Your Home
(877) 267-2444
Click "Security and Automation," then "wireless remote home automation."

(973) 543-3333
software for home automation

(800) 463-5685
switches and ECUs

VOS Systems
(858) 679-8027
voice-operated switches, dimmers, etc.

(800) 869-8521
wireless remote control for TV, lights, and other appliances using a speech-generating device

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