Why smart doorbells are great for people with disabilities

I was late on the "smart doorbell" craze. I've dabbled with home automation for almost 20 years and have seen it go from very expensive, very complicated, and very poorly implemented to something as easy as buying two things from Amazon and plugging them in the next day so they can just work. "Hey Google, turn up the stereo. Louder. LOUDER." But when the Ring Doorbell first became a thing, it was a thing that I couldn't find a reason to spend the money on.

I've since picked up a Ring Doorbell (thanks to a crazy-cheap deal from Thrifter) and have had it out front for a while now. It was kind of cool for the first week, I could say hello to my wife as she walked to the door or tease my dogs, but it just didn't seem practical. I wrote it off as a fun toy. All that changed recently when my wife switched shifts at her job; she's no longer there in the mornings to tend to whoever may be ringing the bell, so I have to do it. That's a little more complicated than you may think. I'm in a wheelchair and there's a flight of stairs between where I work and the door.

Some of us need more time to get from point A to point B. A smart doorbell can give you a little more time.

Ask anyone in a wheelchair and they'll tell you that stairs are our nemesis. Whether it's a simple curb on a sidewalk, an entry to a shop downtown, or the 13 stairs in my house, they act as a bit of a roadblock. Most everyone in a chair has some way to deal with stairs because they happen to be everywhere, and my way is to grab a pair of canes and slowly go up or down and do whatever it is I need to go upstairs to do in the middle of the day. I'll be frank — it hurts a lot and it takes a while. It takes enough time that a FedEx delivery person who needs a signature can write a little slip of paper and slide it into the door jamb then leave with my package.

A smart doorbell with two-way communication beats yelling up the stairs and making the dogs bark.

A smart doorbell with two-way communication beats yelling up the stairs and making the dogs bark.

Tech writers get a lot of packages delivered to our homes, and a handful of companies are notorious for requiring a signature to get theirs delivered. That makes sense when you're sending expensive things that are easily broken across the country or across the globe. Sometimes a delivery person will hear me yell that I'm making my way there and wait, other times they won't. Now, though, they all hear because I give a friendly greeting and let them know I'll be a minute or two making my way up the stairs or that they can come to the side door through my Ring Doorbell.

A smart doorbell is more than a fun toy, but it's still a fun toy, too.

It's not perfect and more often than not I catch the back of a delivery driver's head as they are walking away unless they noticed the Ring and knew to press the button. And even with simple to adjust settings for motion detection you'll still get false alarms, so windy days with leaves rustling or even shadows moving across the porch might have me checking who may be at the door. This is to be expected when you use a motion sensor to trigger anything, but I understand the Ring Pro (I'm using a Ring 2) does a much better job determining what is a real trigger and what isn't. But none of that matters to me because I can say "HI!" to the back of a driver's head just as easily as saying it to the front and checking a false alarm is as easy as looking at my phone or computer screen. The drivers are very accommodating and understanding because I'm not the only person who uses a smart system to tell them it takes a minute to get to the door.

Being able to tell someone at your door that it takes a bit longer then they expect for you to get there is a little thing. Many of the people who knock on the door or ring the bell aren't someone we want to talk to and in my case, the vast majority of any packages that arrive don't need to be signed for and are set on the porch for me to collect once I get up the stairs. Still, a Ring Doorbell or a Nest Hello or any other all-in-one video doorbell solution is a turn-key product that can help make my life seem closer to normal. That makes it worth the asking price and any extra monthly costs. I'm guessing that anyone you may know who has trouble getting around would feel the same way because feeling normal can be priceless.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.