Boilers and central heating systems can be difficult to use for blind and partially sighted people. Controls are not necessarily inclusively designed and often require the user to be able to visually read important pieces of information. But there are solutions.
The Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (RiDC) reviewed central heating controls in February 2020 and identified a selection of accessible options to choose from, covering manual room thermostats, thermostatic radiator valves, programmable room thermostats and smart heating controls. For an explanation of these different types, refer to the RiDC guidance on heating controls, types and features. This page lists the RiDC recommended heating controls, including examples of each type.
Additionally, mainstream electric heaters tend to be easy to operate and can be good for maintaining temperatures in specific rooms.
Using your smartphone
Smart heating systems can be a good option for blind and partially sighted people, because they can be controlled via accessible mobile devices or voice activated digital personal assistants.
British Gas worked with RNIB to ensure that their Hive Active Heating technology was designed to be accessible for blind and partially sighted people. The system is compatible with the Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant digital assistants.
The Nest Thermostat can be controlled by digital personal assistants, such as Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. The system learns your behaviour and acts accordingly, reducing the need for you to interact with your heating controls at all.
The Honeywell Lyric smart thermostat monitors your location and aims to save energy while you’re not at home. It can connect with Amazon, Google and Apple Homekit systems.
Inspire Home Automation thermostats can be controlled via mobile apps or Amazon Alexa.
The Tado Smart Thermostat links in with Amazon, Google, Apple and (If this Then That) IFTTT services.
Tactile labelling can help make traditional household temperature control systems easier to use. For example, a bump-on to mark your preferred temperature on a control dial may serve as a relatively inexpensive, straightforward accessible adaptation. Systems that feature a reset button can be convenient, because if you know what state the system resets to, you can always, at least, get back to the beginning.