My first Home Assistant: Home Automation for PWD -- away we go!

Preface: This is an intro to the project I’ll be working on. If you’re a tech-type person and want the details, not background, you might want to skip this post. I plan to post subsequently, more concisely about things I build and issues I run into.


Hope this is the right place to post – new to the board, and Home Assistant. But I wanted to try something I’ve never really done before because I never think ahead to do it – which is, I’d like to share my Home Assistant (and automation) “journey” and project as it happens and I build it.

The reason I think it’s worthwhile for me to share early, is that I’ve really taken to home automation/personal assistant tech as a topic, in a way that rarely happens for me; I’ve come to really enjoy learning about it; and because I’m PWD (person with disabilities) and I noticed that the power and possibility of home automation seems to get overlooked for us as a loose group of highly unique humans trying to make our way in the world. But I can say that over the last few months introducing home automation into my life, it’s made a distinct difference in my quality of life. I’d even go so far that, with the pandemic ongoing, it’s become essential to me coping and caring for myself to get through. So, I thought I’d start sharing from the jump, here, on my plunge in with Home Assistant.

So, with that preface out of the way – away we go!

I’d been struggling with making so many of the home automation items I’d picked up work with each other not only the way I see others have them working – but the way I need them to work as not only convenience tools, and as accommodative and accessibility technologies.

For me, home automation started with (of all things) an Android TV STB for Christmas last year, and then noticing a Google Home Mini on sale that I decided to give a try to pair up with Android TV. It seemed like an inexpensive way to set up a home center through Android TV and the speaker.

I honestly thought these tools were indulgences, but once I had them in the home and could see their potential for more than entertainment, my imagination started to take hold. This, even though though they still weren’t quite doing as much as promised by Google and automation enthusiasts (though, it could have been that I was still early in the learning curve). And to Googles great credit, they have a Disability Services hotline especially set up to help folks with technologies they’re deploying, who are in situations such as mine; I’ve only used it once, but knowing its there has been a great relief.

Indeed, the first time I used the service was shortly after the pandemic happened – because I was using the tiny and buggy system I’d cobbled together then to help keep me updated on all the stuff going on. When the pandemic came – I had to kick my life and home into high gear in order to keep up and stay healthy and safe. And these tools started to help me even more. I just wasn’t ready.

But over time, I got used to the tools; and they were helping me get through those early months, I noticed them helping with other things I struggle with on a daily, ongoing and even lifelong basis. So, I leaned into making more changes and adjustments in my home to include them. And with each push and change, improvements in my life have come back my way (sometimes big, sometimes small, sometimes unexpectedly lol, and not always).

It’s been a journey, and one I consider to be worth the effort and cost (which, while the equipment and materials I selected have not usually been somewhat affordable, have not been insignificant). And now, in order for me to really take advantage of what I’ve built and the ideas I have, it’s time for me to get serious about home automation and assistant tech. I’m ready and excited.

Which is what brings me to Home Assistant. I’ve been reading a bit about it here and there, especially as I’ve run into issues getting the equipment, apps and set up I’ve got to work together across different automation ecosystems. It’s been frustrating; I can also see that if I don’t plan carefully, it could get costly fast with less return on investment and usefulness to me. It can also get overwhelming and a mess, it seems, fast.

I was hesitant to jump in, though – because, as much as people LOVE Linux, I personally find it annoying. Like IOS, nothing is ever as straightforward as Linux lovers make it seem. And Home Assistant really seemed made for Linux, especially if you want to run an always-on machine (like Raspberry Pi). I also don’t have coding experience, nor scripting; and Linux commands mystify me sometimes already. BUT I know and understand enough about computers that I felt like it could work.

A couple of nights ago, out of frustration with the fact that I can’t get my Google Home to just issue a simple gong-bell-chime style sound when someone opens a particular door, I started to look again towards Home Assistant and other solutions. I do use IFTTT, but I find even THAT is limited for what I need it to do – some of which are just minor things that should be easy. I know I could probably sit down and learn ways around the lack of connections between certain tools and systems, and I’m interested in doing that (someday) – but I also get the feeling that even if I did, I’d run into some of the same issues more or less, at some point. And that what I need is a “sibling” automation system to couple with Google Home/Assistant and the other minor systems/apps I have running. It just seems wise to get a jump on that now if I want to leverage (and enjoy) what I’ve created and am creating.

So, I tried a virtual machine on my Windows box – and, while complicated, it didn’t seem ridiculously daunting. So I ordered my first Raspberry Pi (which I was also excited about, they are so nifty) and it arrived two days ago. Started it up, tripped over the fact that Home Assistant is it’s own operating system and didn’t need Raspbian, then installed Home Assistant. And, as I write this – my first real Home Assistant is running on Raspberry Pi!

It’s rocky starting out – I’m trying to visualize, in my mind, the relationship between Google Home, and a few of the systems that I have running in that, where they relate to Home Assistant. But through trial and error, I think I’m learning and figuring it out. I already feel like bringing Home Assistant in early was the smart thing to do.

Thanks for reading; I look forward to posting follow ups here. I’d love to hear feedback, advice, and especially from other people with disabilities!



I am curious as to what you use it for or plan on doing.
My son has Cerebral Palsy and is limited in mobility. I have done a few automatons such as motion detection and lights. One of my future projects will be to set up a Aeotec NanoMote as a ‘remote control’ for him to decide what he wants on/off. I have been looking into an IR transmitter to control the TV so if he has the NanoMote he can issue an on/off TV and channel up/down.

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For me, assistance really is the name of the game. I need a lot of voice-initiated help, in order to keep me moving throughout the day and also to give me cues and responses when I need information to help me continue without diversion or distraction. The automations also help me transition throughout the day more seemlessly – which has always been a problem for me.

Plus – well, in all honesty – it helps me manage my contact with the outside world, whether its information or people coming to the door. I struggle with communication in a number of ways, but especially novel communication without any warning. I’ve had both safety and security issues in the past because of this; the home automation system gives me more information BEFORE I try to deal with something, whether it’s at my door or out the world (like, news about Coronavirus for instance).

And while I do enjoy my alone time – to be honest, also – it’s helped me feel more connected, oddly enough, and less isolated. I know it’s only a computer program with an equipment front, BUT it’s also friendly-enough with real-time information on the other side that it helps me feel more connected to the world around me in a human-like presentation. In addition, it helps me connect to services and people I need through Duo, calling, texting – including if I need help with things urgently, even, though some of the personal alert services.

I also have mobility and dexterity issues – though, not to the degree that your son experiences. The system I’ve built has actually helped me not only stay on track, but also…well…focus on the routines that I need in order to care for myself and my home. It’s also helped simplify some things, like cooking; it answers questions for me quickly about things, like recycling; and it helps me with information, without distraction, like bus schedules, so I get out the door faster if I need to. Because of all this – and probably other things I’m still trying to understand, about how it’s helping me – my home is much more orderly, efficient and something I’m able to care for. My guess is that by moving a lot off my plate I was doing before that caused me to get distracted, I can focus on the things I need to – which take me longer and more energy and attention anyway.

But the neat thing is, because things are more orderly, I don’t get as upset, nor do I bump into things or hurt myself as much as I used to. Nor do things pile up the way they did.

Now, granted, a lot of this is me putting in extra effort, but all I can say is that having a system to help me seems to be “lightening the load” to the degree that it doesn’t seem so tedious or insurmountable.

There’s probably more I use it for, than what I can think of right now; I’ll list some things later, if I can think of them.

In the near future, what I want to do is add a robot vacuum (because I really struggle with keeping the floors vacuumed, they’re so far and I have trouble perceiving when they have matter on them and it’s time to clear them). I’m also working to try to make the reminder, tasks and calendar system better for me, so it cues me more with less difficulty (that’s a Google thing, I think, that’s going to be some work lol). Overall, I’m hoping to get the system working smoothly enough that my routines, calendar, and the stuff I have to do to keep my life working and stay functional are more orderly and easier. Once I do that – honestly, I’m sure there’s even more it can help me with. I’m really excited.

Oh, as an aside – I just ordered an IR remote, too! Tuya! I’m going to use it to control a number of items in my bedroom, which I’m looking forward to doing. I wonder if that’s sort of what you’re thinking of for your son?

And as an update – LOL – I had to erase my Home Assistant and start a new installation, because I followed someone’s startup video and what they did wasn’t nearly as simple as they made it out to be. So, back to square one! But I’m learning!

Love to hear from others who might have ideas about how Home Assistant can help me - maybe I haven’t thought of things yet? Open to anything! THANKS!

I really appreciate the perspective you’ve shared in your post. As someone without disabilities, I tend to see Home Assistant as more of an indulgence in my own life, and I often don’t realize how helpful Home Assistant can be for PWD. Plus, it’s a great reminder for all of us to be mindful of the impacts that design choices can have on users with different abilities.

If you’re a podcast person (and you haven’t heard it already), you might enjoy the episode of the Home Assistant Podcast that featured a blind user named Keith sharing his journey with home automation ( I found it really fascinating and entertaining, and he’s done some cool, useful things that may inspire you. (Plus, the Home Assistant Podcast is just great in general, so there’s that.)

Anyway, welcome to the community! I think you’ll find it full of smart, creative, and helpful folks with some great ideas and insights. I’ll look forward to reading more about your progress.

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This is so true. Once upon a time, I actually went to design school – and so I definitely understand both the concept of “accessibility” and “Accessibility” (concept and official definition, so to speak). Design matters, and automation really is going to change the way people live (for good, I hope.)

Thanks for the podcast link!

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Howdy everyone!

Thought I’d check in and share a little bit of my progress before I head to bed:

A. I’m darned confounded by the cameras I have on hand that I’ve got working with Google Home, but seem unwilling or unable to cooperate with Home Assistant (2 Arlos, 1 TP-Link Kasa Outdoor Camera and an Abode Cam.)

But I’m also not entirely sure that I should bother trying to integrate them, since they work with my Google Home pretty well and I’m really trying to add HASS as a “sibling”. That doesn’t stop me from continuing to get caught in these attempts to integrate, rather than pair, cooperate and compliment, d*mn it! LOL. I dream of a system where all components will live together in unity (cue Coke commercial “I’d like to teach the world to sing”…)

Arlo is especially annoying; I have HACS and AARLO installed, but unfurling exactly what the problem is – is something of a rabbit hole. But it doesn’t register. And don’t get me started on TP-Link, who have an integration that does…bupkus.

BUT thinking about it in the bigger picture, I’m also left wondering why I’d bother with cameras that don’t “play well with others” (nevermind allowing access in multiple formats, beyond proprietary apps). So, I’m considering offloading the TP-Link Camera and replacing it with a different outdoor cam. You live by the sword, TP-Link, you die by the sword – slash, you’re out!

For Arlo, I have a Homekit bridge showing to the basestation – but no Homekit code (lol) and no way of getting it without an Apple product to install iOS Home on. So, my simple solution is to order a barely working, busted up iPad for super cheap to just get the darn code. For the record, though – I despise Apple products with the passion of a thousand burning suns. So, don’t be surprised if we don’t see some “KHAAAAN!” moments here, but with “JOBBBBBS!” instead (sorry, dorky Star Trek humor and also with all due respect to Steve Jobs, who really was a titan in the industry).

As for Abode – well, tbh, as annoyed as I am with their recent changes to the “free” part of their security system portion of their units, I’ve come to rather like them; and as a hub, their aren’t half bad (when coupled with Google Home and now HASS). And the Abode camera is actually, at this moment, the only one that’s doing ANYTHING on HASS (though only showing a snapshot picture lol) so I think it just will take some fussing to get Abode to come along with the rest of the new automation siblings I’m bringing into the home.

All of these things work with Google Home, though, so for now – I can live with the separation, I guess. But it’s going to get on my nerves eventually, so…stay tuned.

B. Last night, I did two exciting things – on my own! One, I started taking snapshots of my system. I gotta say … this easily beats any of the systems or apps I’ve used so far. So easy to use.


C. I used a snapshot to move my HASS to a better 64 bit SD card (a2 instead of a1). It was a little nerve wracking at first, unsure if it was actually working – but once I did a core restart with the new SD card? VOILA! Holy cow, that’s just the best!

This is my dispatch for today, October 28, 2020, Hass enthusiasts – I hope you have a wonderful afternoon (evening or morning, wherever you are!)

Well, the SD card I ordered outright pooped out on me – defective. So, instead of looking for “a good deal” this time, I decided to order a very nice SD card specifically for HASS.

Since then, I’ve had my HASS offline – which has given me time to think about what I want out of it, as a system. At this time, I don’t want it to become the central automation system for me, replacing Google Home, because I have a lot to learn about it (including some coding, scripting, etc, which I do better learning hands-on, over time, with problems of my own to overcome, rather than novel problems for other people). I definitely want it to be paired WITH Google Home/Assistant, at least for the foreseeable future. At some point, I can see moving to a system that’s all HASS (or the like), but not right now.

But having thought about this, made me realize that I’ve been approaching how I set up Google Home and Assistant (and, indeed, my Google accounts that are user logins) all wrong. So, I decided to kill my Google Home this past weekend – in favor of a new login set-up, that seems more secure if I should ever want to let friends or others use my system here in the house, as a visitor or the like. And it was Home Assistant that really helped me think about how I’ve been doing it all wrong with Google Home.

I think that how a person “plans”, “designs” and “constructs” user names, logins, etc, can make a big difference when it comes to sharing, security, etc, on home automation and assistant systems. User accounts on Google, for instance, on tablets? Seriously slow down the tablet or phone system multiuser is on (because technically, two instances of Android have to be running – the admin and the standard user who logs in). In addition, just logging into Google Home with your personal id is all well and good – except for when you get a personal email or calendar entry, and you forget to log out or you’re so merged with Google Home, that it pops up on a screen across town in front of your mom or your roommate. And who really is comfortable with “appointment with doctor about (insert condition here)” in calendar or “extra strength toilet paper has been delivered by (insert store here)” in ones email you happened to leave open? Not I. That’s a level of trust that is hard to build up with people, and even then, people do need some level of privacy; total openness for the sake of automation convenience just is not doable, IMHO.

Yet, I know that the younger generations are just leaving these accounts open to friends and family on tablets, phone and computers, in favor of just that level of convenience. I’m not there yet; I think it’s a mistake; and I think they’ll eventually realize privacy and personal space is good, in many cases. I also think it helps with burnout, too.

So, with my Google Home now reconstructed – I’m about to tackle Home Assistant, again, for integration as a “sibling”, with this new user structure in mind for my Google Home now and for the future. I’m wrestling, though, with whether it’s best to just go with a new install – or the snapshot I took before the SD card took a dive. My inclination is to start over, because whatever wasn’t working with Google Home before – there’s a possibility it won’t jive with what I had going on with Home Assistant, or that it could spill into Home Assistant in unwanted ways.

So, there you have it. In my next dispatch, I’ll let ya’ll know what I ultimately end up with.


P.S. My solution to integrating Arlo is now in – which was to buy a very cheap, beaten up IPad to get the HomeKit code and integrate, rather than try Aarlo on HACS.

We’ll see how that goes!

Update: I decided to go with my last snapshot, because I have HACS installed properly. But I deleted all the integrations, so there’s no conflicts. I’m also looking at the add-ons in Supervisor, to make sure there’s nothing there that’s going to conflict either.

The SD card is working beautifully, though; HASS is humming along so nicely!

And the “last legs but still kicking” Ipad is up and going to get that Homekit code for Arlo.

Fingers crossed!