An Environmental Control (EC) system can provide a level of independent control of many devices in the home for people with significant physical disabilities. EC may be suitable if you struggle to control equipment around you because of difficulties with using your arms or hands.  EC can help with control of: Letting people in/out of the house;  Calling for attention; control of telephones, computers , lights, sockets (for things like fans, lamps), TVs, DVDs, stereos; curtains and windows.

EC devices can allow you to control these devices with even the smallest of movement.

In this video Terry explains about using a voice controlled EC system.

In this video Andrew explains how he uses an integrated system for communication and environmental control:

Environmental Control and the Barnsley AT Team

Our team provides a specialised service for EC in supporting teams in assessing the needs of children and adults and in provision of appropriate specialised EC equipment across the Yorkshire and Humber regionThe NHS England service specification defines what our service should do and how it should interact with local services.

Referrals are made via a local professional in your area and will normally only be accepted from an Occupational Therapist or other health professional.

We will then come and visit you with the person who referred your home. This assessment visit will establish your needs and identify the most appropriate controller and way of accessing this.

At this stage, subject to funding, we can either provide equipment to use as a short term trial or arrange for a system to be installed.

Installation of an EC system can take up to a day (depending on complexity). Should it be necessary an electrician and/or joiner will be requested to assist the EC Engineer. The EC system will be fully explained and demonstrated on the day of the install.

Post installation, we contact you to review whether the system needs to be modified in any way or if further support and training is required. We also carry out annual telephone reviews to check that the system is continuing to meet your needs.  Regular maintenance visits will also be carried out to check the equipment.



The Environmental Control service specification states:

Environmental Controls provision will be for people who meet the following criteria:
  • Profound and potentially complex physical disability, such that they are unable to operate standard controls for functioning independently in the home.
  • Cognitively and physically able to operate EC equipment consistently.
  • Able to demonstrate sustained motivation to use the EC equipment.
  • Individuals requiring multiple control functions integrated into a single means of access and for whom multiple devices, each with separate function are inappropriate. 

Where individuals have a variable condition (eg: a progressive neurological condition), the above criteria can be applied with regard to the person’s anticipated  needs and abilities within a clinically appropriate time period.

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Where non-specialist solutions to the identified needs of the patient are available and appropriate for the individual.
  • The individual patient does not have the cognitive ability or motivation to learn to operate the EC equipment. This shall normally be established though a period of trial of some sample solution of equipment.
  • Provision of equipment is inappropriate due to social, environmental or other circumstances.
  • Where the referred need is for equipment primarily for educational ICT or, employment ‘access to work’ requirement, then the referral will normally be referred to the relevant agencies for assessment and provision.  Collaboration with these agencies may still be appropriate.

Making a Referral

If you are unsure if someone is appropriate for a referral to our service then please get in touch to discuss before filling in a referral form.

If you would like to refer a client and are confident that they meet the referral criteria, then you can find the referral form on our website.

Provision Criteria

EC services provide “Specialised Environmental Controls” and not “simpler and cheaper non customised solutions”. The Environmental Control service specification states:

Certain aspects of the potential provision are outside the funding remit of the specialist service and require referral for funding and provision by other agencies. If these are not available, then this may or may not preclude the benefit of provision of the EC equipment, these are:That affecting the fabric of the building and typically funded through application to other funding sources such as Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) or minor adaptation, including;
  • door, window and curtain openers (including replacement door locking mechanisms)
  • building adaptations
  • electrical, joinery carpentry or other minor adaptation

If a person requires these aspects as part of their Environmental Control system it will be explained to them that the appropriate agency will need to be contacted and that the provision criteria and waiting lists for these aspects may be different from that of the rest of the Environmental Control system.

If a person ONLY requires one of these listed aspects (e.g. a door opener) then referral for Environmental Control is not appropriate and the local Aids and Adaptations team should be contacted.

Environmental Control Contractors

We have contracts with a number of approved contractors.  We may ask these contractors to install equipment in your home. We may also ask them to provide a call out service for repairs and changes to the system.

When an EC system is provided or maintained by a contractor, the contractor must work to a set of standards. These standards set out the quality of work expected and also the timescales that this work must be completed within. We have summarised these standards in the contract summary document listed below.

Maintenance of EC Systems

EC systems provided by our team have a maintenance contract provided either directly by Barnsley Assistive Technology Team or an appointed contractor and this covers:

  • the specialised controller/transmitter;
  • other equipment provided by Barnsley Assistive Technology Team – this may include items such as remote control sockets, intercom units and specialised phones installed as part of your specialised Assistive Technology system.

You might call the Maintainer if:

  • your system has stopped working;
  • a new bit of equipment needs to be programmed onto the controller;
  • to check regarding a planned maintenance visit.

Contact details for the Maintainers are on support contacts page.

Maintenance of this system does not cover:

  • Any equipment controlled that belongs to you e.g. a lamp or other item plugged into a remote control socket, a television or a computer.
  • Any equipment controlled by your Assistive Technology system which may have been provided through other routes e.g. door opener/door lock.

Please ensure you know who to contact if there is a fault requiring repair or replacement parts for equipment such as doors that we do not maintain. You may wish to contact your local community Occupational Therapy team, Equipment and Adaptations service or Housing Association to discuss this.

Please also note, EC equipment must not be used for safety critical functions (see guidance on use of Assistive Technology) and if you rely on being able to use your landline phone as part of your environmental control system please read and act on our advice about the Digital Switchover.


Key Documents

  1. EC Service Specification and Contract Summary (what you should expect from an EC installation)
  2. Local Service Resource Pack  (resources to support local teams)
  3. Specialised EC Service Specification (NHS England website)
  4. Computer Access Provision Guidance (National document, Draft)
  5. Prescribed Services Manual (NHS England website)
  6. AT Team Referral form