Something Personal. A little over a year and a half ago, my family suffered an unexpected accident. My father-in-law was struck by a sliding glass door, fell, and did irreperable damage to his spinal chord. What followed were months of surgery, waiting, coping, rehabilitation, and adjustment. Amazing that in one unexpected moment, someone with full mobility and use of limbs can lose all of that. What he regained was jus a little movement, just some elbow, neck, and bicept, but nothing fine motor skilled in the hands, and nothing in the lower body.
Another unfortunate side effect of the 3 months of hospitalization is that he developed a deep bedsore, which now required he be in bed (ironically) to relieve the pressure as much as possible while being turned frequently. So, he watches a lot of TV, but he can't change the channels himself, the remote buttons are way too small, and even the "big" universal remotes had bottons that were too small.
Introducing, the Handicap Accessible TV Remote.
What this is is essentially the factory DirectTV remote stuffed inside a radio shack project box, with Sparkfun 4-direction arcade stick and large push buttion directly soldered to the board. I ended up cutting down part of the spring from the button to make it even softer to push.
It was mounted to a Monfrotto articulating camera arm with the additional Monfrotto clamp that connects it to the rail on the side of the bed.
Lastly, after realizing that the box would sit off to the side and the infrared sensor would be blocked, I cut the infrared LEDs and relocated them to an old DSL noise filter (plucked off all the old components) adding a telephone connector to the box and running a wire under the bed. As the remote was likely to be moved often for his care, easy and well known connectors were an obvious choice.
The great thing about this setup is that by just mapping the UP / DOWN / LEFT / RIGHT and SELECT button, DirectTV menus can easily be manuvered.
For instance, throw the stick UP and DirectTV shows you this nice programmable favorites menu which means the top 9 channels are just 2-3 movements + a click away.
The regular channel listing can be seen by throwing the stick down and then holding it up or down to scroll through the hundreds of channels. This was a bit challenging at first, but eventually he got the hang of it.
One later modification was to unscrew and replace the red plastic top of the arcade with a universal leather shift knob. This was easier to grasp and since his grip was impaired, the leather's grip allowed for an easier and more accurate usage. This one is from ModifyStreet and has some nice red stitching and it came with 3 adapter sizes, one of which fit perfectly and snug over the Sparkfun 4-way switch.
I hope that this happens to no one you know or love. But if it does I hope that this post inspires you to give them something as seemingly small as regaining the ability to change the channel, it's a huge gift. More photos of the build on this flickr page.
* A good soldering iron. Very hot, with a tiny tip. I found the small curved tip worked best. Also, some solder and liquid / brush on resin.
* A drill and various sized bits.
* Random sized screws, nuts, and spacers to bolt everything to / inside the project enclosure.
* A glue gun
* A multimeter / circuit tester (optional but useful to test your connections and make sure that little trace on the remote printed circuit board goes where you think it does)
Further Assembly Tips
Soldering wires directly on to a printed circuit board is very delicate. Here's how it's done:
1) Find a nice trace (little lines running around the board that are actually metal underneath), scrape away the plastic or the surfacing for a button with a sharp X-acto knife
2) Prep that area with a little bit of Resin
3) Use a very hot, very fine soldering iron tip, and tin the trace (attach a small amount of solder)
4) Use small copper wire from CAT5 cable and tin that as well, then attach carefully
5) With the wire connected, brush on some Krazy glue. When dry you can pull and it should be solid and resist a small tug.
Weight / size / position:
* As nice as that stand is, the single clamp point is going to slide. Try to make the remote as light as possible, and if possible have it rest on top of the bed or another surface.
* Evaluate how often it will probably be moved around and whether or not it might end up clamped to something else like a wheelchair or armchair.
* Keep in mind that the farther up / out, the more difficult to reach. I kept this box very tight and close to the arm.
* I first tested which buttons did what. Luckily the DirectTV menus was triggered by the arrow keys to open. Had that not been the case I was prepared to add another button on the side which would have been the "Menu" button. Test using the TV or appliance with just the buttons you provide.
* The obvious question arrises what about: Power / Volume / Mute, etc. Well, that would make the it a lot more complicated. 95% of the need is navigating the channels. The TV really never turns off, and if someone wants to talk he could just ask them to turn the volume down.
* I didn't do a good job with battery placement as it required the back panel removed. It should be more accessible.