Understanding Home Security Systems

To start, it helps to understand the standard components and functions of a home security system. At their most basic, they usually include a hub or keypad to arm, disarm and configure the system, in addition to a number of sensors depending on the provider and package. These can include door and window sensors, glass break sensors, smoke or carbon monoxide alarms and/or flood or water leak sensors. Most systems are scalable, so you can always add on more peripherals if necessary, such as additional sensor or cameras.

If the system is professionally monitored – which requires a subscription to a paid monitoring plan – then a triggered sensor issues a signal to a monitoring center. The monitoring center will then call the homeowner and/or emergency services depending on the nature of the alarm and whether or not the homeowner answers the call. If the system is self-monitored (i.e. you’re not paying for a monitoring service) then the homeowner is usually alerted via smartphone app.

Accessible Home Security Features

The components and configurations of home security systems vary greatly, and that’s a good thing: it allows people to cater their selections to their needs and priorities. Luckily, there are certain widely available features that may increase utility and peace of mind for those who are blind, deaf or hard of hearing. Here are the recommended features for a robust, effective home security system:

Comparing Leading Home Security Systems

The following chart compares selected features across five of the leading home security providers. For a more comprehensive overview, visit our Guide to the Best Home Security Systems.

Frontpoint Security
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SimpliSafe
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Protect America
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Sensors available Motion
Door & window
Glass break
Garage door
Flood
Motion
Door & window
Glass break
Garage door
Flood
Motion
Door & window
Glass break
Garage door
Flood
Motion
Door & window
Glass break
Garage door
Flood
Motion
Door & window
Flood
Siren type Audio siren.
Strobe light upon request.
Audio siren only Audio siren only Internal siren on base.
Auxiliary 105dB siren available.
No flashing options.
Audio siren only
24/7 professional monitoring Yes – required Yes – required Yes – required Optional Yes – required
Mobile app Yes, but not
with basic plan.
Yes Yes Yes, but only with
monitoring plan.
Yes, but not
with basic plan.
Professional Installation Yes – required Yes – required Not available With additional fee Not available
Voice control Amazon Alexa
(not with basic plan)
Amazon Alexa
Google Assistant
Amazon Alexa
Google Assistant
Amazon Alexa
Google Assistant
(only with a paid monitoring plan)
Amazon Alexa
(not with basic plan)
Smoke & CO Alarms Audio siren only
(mobile notifications with higher-tier plans)
Audio siren only
with mobile app alerts
Audio siren only
with mobile app alerts
Smoke alarm has audio siren.
Mobile app alerts on paid monitoring plans.
CO monitor not available.
Smoke alarm has audio siren.
Mobile app alerts on higher-tier plans.
CO monitor not available.

 

After reviewing these features, there is a strong argument that ADT is the best home security choice for people who are blind, deaf or hard of hearing because of the scope of its services, sensors and mobile notification options. Note that you can also add other peripherals onto the system, such as security cameras and wearable medical alerts. Click here to shop ADT packages and equipment. 

Even the best systems do fall short in some areas, but members of the blind and deaf community may potentially bridge the gap using devices they already own. For example, screen readers can make mobile notifications much more accessible to the blind, while smartwatches can help ensure that deaf people never miss a notification. Unfortunately, we aren’t aware of any major monitored home security provider that offers bed shakers to wake up deaf people in their sleep in case of emergency.

Of course, you may wish to bolster your home security without the expense or commitment of a full-scale system. Surveillance cameras are often the next best thing. Read on to learn how today’s easily installed cameras can help the deaf and blind feel safer at home.

Outdoor home security camera

Smart Surveillance & Remotely Monitored Security Cameras

Security cameras are more popular than ever, but they have limitations, especially for people who are blind, deaf or hard of hearing. First of all, most home security cameras work on a self-monitored basis, meaning that it’s up to the owner to watch them. These cameras provide footage to help find and prosecute criminals or intruders after the fact, but they don’t do much to prevent incidents in the first place (apart from their presence deterring would-be intruders). 

For maximum impact, deaf people should select cameras with artificially intelligent features like motion detection, people detection and even facial recognition. Wireless cameras with these features issue smartphone alerts via their accompanying apps. Even if you can’t hear a bang on the door or someone rummaging in the garage, the camera will detect activity and you’ll receive a notification on your phone. Then, you can tune into the live feed to see exactly what’s going on. Here is a roundup of several great cameras to choose from.

It might sound counterintuitive, but it’s possible for people who are blind to benefit from security cameras as well. Today’s best wireless cameras have mobile apps that make it easy to grant access to someone you trust. You set up a camera or video doorbell, allow a trusted friend or loved one to opt into mobile alerts, and then they can tune in if there’s activity detected. Thanks to motion detection and person detection features, a camera can also help you independently determine details like when cleaners, dog walkers, maintenance people or other service professionals arrive and leave, or if someone is intruding in your yard. It also may gather evidence of crimes. Even if you miss the alerts or can’t see the activity, the camera will catch it, and law enforcement or loved ones will be able to review what happened after the fact. 

It’s also possible to outsource this task to a security company that provides remote monitoring of security cameras. Install a camera on the outside of your home, and trained professionals respond to any activity by issuing verbal warnings or calling the authorities. “Remote CCTV monitoring technology features a PA system that allows for verbal warnings to ward off criminals that may be stepping onto the property,” explains John MacMahon, Managing Director of the UK-based remote monitoring company Re:Sure. “With this, the operators assigned to your home will be able to call the police as soon as there’s a threat.”

There is a privacy concern here – after all, a remote professional will be able to check in and see the outside of your house. For this reason, we only suggest remote camera monitoring for the external, non-private parts of your home.

Note that camera monitoring is different than the 24/7 system monitoring described earlier in the discussion of home security systems. Home security monitoring centers receive signals from the system’s collections of sensors, but do not have access to your video feed. This helps protect your privacy, but it does mean that your cameras have to be self-monitored (or monitored by a loved one) even if you have a monitored home security system.

More Smart Home Security Product Ideas for the Blind or Deaf

Smart Speaker
  • Smart speakers. For people who are blind, these handy voice-controlled speakers can integrate with smart home products to set home automation configurations that dramatically enhance safety and convenience.
  • Smart lighting. Lighting is a major burglary deterrent. With a few strategically installed smart lights, you can set your lights to automatically turn on and off according to a schedule, which signals that the home is occupied and helps convince intruders to find an easier target.
  • Driveway alarms. These devices provide early notice when people are approaching your house. Unfortunately, most of them only have audio alarms, so they’ll better serve those who are blind than deaf.

Have a tip to share? To our blind, deaf or hard of hearing friends: do you have a favorite home security product or tip? What works best for you? Contact the author at emily@safety.com.