UI for visually impaired / demetia

I have two ageing parents, My mother is slowly going blind due to macular degeneration (the version that has no cure), my father is rapidly descending into dementia. My mother is IT challenged - she can use an iPad to play “Words with Friends” and that is about it. My father was quite IT capable (he used to be a 747 captain), but is rapidly losing capabilities, he also has an iPad. That’s the back story …

My father still likes to watch TV, but he gets very frustrated that the remote(s) don’t work. Unfortunately they do work, he has just forgotten how to use them - but can’t understand that concept. My mother would like to help, but she is so IT challenged (and almost blind) that she just gets in the way.

They have three Daikin split system air conditioners which use IR remote controls. The remote controls show the set temperature, mode, etc, on a low contrast LCD screen. My mother needs to work these units but she can’t see the images, text, or icons very well at all.

So, what I want to do for them (with VERY limited programming capabilities) is create an app for them on their iPads which would be a VERY SIMPLE remote.

I just bought a Harmony Hub to investigate whether it could fulfil that requirement, but it is too restrictive in the UI - I can’t make it simple enough. The IR capabilities of the hub should be useful to actually control the devices though.

I’ve spent today researching on the web, and (maybe) openHAB might be able to be used. I’m hoping it may do …

The activities to control:

  • Watch TV
  • They have an LCD TV and Foxtel Box (we are in Australia, that is the cable provider). They watch a selection of channels, not many, and no longer use any of the PVR functions (can’t remember they exist).
  • Watch a DVD - I know it’s old tech, but they are used to it.

  • Watch a VCR - Even older technology

  • Control AC in Living Room - On/Off, Temperature, Heat/Cool, Fan speed

  • Control AC in Dining Room - On/Off, Temperature, Heat/Cool, Fan speed

  • Control AC in Bed Room - On/Off, Temperature, Heat/Cool, Fan speed

What I want is an iPad App with 4 tabs at the top: Watch TV / Watch DVD / Watch VCR / AirCon

The Watch TV Page would show: On/Off switch; a set of icons representing the local channels they like to watch; a volume slider. All the channels they want to watch are available through the Foxtel Box.

The Watch DVD and Watch VCR pages would have: On/Off switch; play, stop, pause, etc, controls; volume slider

The AirCon Page would have (split into 3 units/panels): On/Off; Set Temp; Fan Speed. The heat/cool could be hidden except from us kids to make it less likely it gets set incorrectly.

My parents don’t have any sort of AV home theatre or other audio system (luckily).

I think over the next few years there will be an increasing need for a simplified home automation UI. Especially for people with dementia, KISS is going to be a requirement.

My questions are:

  1. Could a scheme similar to my word picture above be created in openHAB
  2. Can openHAB work adequately with the Harmony Hub to control the TV, Foxtel Box, DVD, VCR, can it be used to control the channel being watched?
    3.It may be possible to use the Harmony Hub to control the ACs, but I’m happy to source alternative IR senders if they will work better, your advice welcomed.
  3. HELP - I know what I would like, and can hack a bit, but if any gurus out there could assist, that would be awesome.

Thanks in advance for any help.


Yes absolutely

Yes again

Probably, Anyone with a harmony hub?

For the UI you can use habpanel on the ipad. You can make the buttons as big as you want and change the fonts

1 Like

You may be also interested in


I did find that conversation. The way I read it, it was more about the programming of openHAB by visually impaired people. I’m hoping to create a UI with no access to programming for use by a visually impaired person. In addition I have to make one simple enough to be used by a mentally impaired person too …

Eventually I may need to try to train my mum to use verbal commands through Alexa (or equiv). An iPad based solution should work for the next year, and is something she can get her mind around.

I think it is doable, but it will test the limits of my capabilities. It looks like people here will help me though. That is fantastic.


Thanks Vincent,

I’ve had a quick look, and it appears to have just the correct simple UI I want to use.


I’m now thinking I may be able to have 4 icons on the Ipad home page, 1 for each of the activities, then just the items as discussed in my first post in each app/activity.

I think my first task may be to get openHAB to properly control changing channels through the hub, so I can have a task behind the Buttons. Am I right?

I’m blown away by how helpful the community has been already,

thank you,


Your first task should be to configure the harmony hub if it can fulfill all your needs. The UI in openHAB is the 2nd step and is simpler if the harmony stuff doesn’t change anymore.

It’s not really complicated to start activities and send keypresses to the harmony hub.