Environmental Control Systems

Environmental Control Systems (ECS) enable people with disabilities to operate appliances such as lights, automated windows, curtains and doors. Systems can incorporate control over audio-visual equipment and often include a front-door intercom. Clearly this will enhance an individual's independence but ECS may also be used exclusively by the care team. For example, an automated door will help carers when they are steering an attendant-controlled wheelchair from behind.

In recent years, the expression 'smart home' has come into the vocabulary. This tends to be based upon 'personal assistance' – such as Amazon's Alexa – and smartphone apps centred around security systems, heating and lighting controls. Whilst 'smart-home' technology crosses over with ECS, it continues to be unusual for domestic properties to have the level of environmental controls required following a catastrophic injury.

A claimant who cannot safely reach a window or would struggle to draw the curtains or open a blind will need assistance from remote-control appliances in which an electric motor is employed to push or pull open/close doors, curtains and windows. Remote-control lights and power sockets may also be required for small appliances.

The need for a comprehensive ECS has to be weighed against the cognitive potential of the claimant. As with communication, there could be a developing situation and it may be appropriate to recommend some minor adaptations in the first instance. In the event of a spinal injury, a comprehensive ECS will often be required to restore the claimant to the situation in which they would have been in any event.