Switches

Description

an image of a several colorful switches

 

 

 

 

Switches are a common solution for users with mobility disabilities who need to use computers or other electronic devices, but have difficulty with the physical interface based on its' design. To allow easier manipulation than a standard keyboard or joystick, a specially-designed switch may be composed of a single button, merely a few buttons, a sensory plate, or another of the adaptive switches available; it may also be touch-free, relying instead on motion sensors, brain activation, or a sip and puff mechanism. Aside from simplifying input devices, switches can also be used as communication tool.

Points to Ponder: Questions to consider when choosing a switch

  • Features
    • Will the student be using their finger, hand, arm, head, breath, or something else to control the switch?
    • How much force is required to press or activate the switch? Some switches are directly pressed by the user and some switches are activated by movement, voice, muscle activation, etc.
    • Are there any visual, hearing, cognitive or developmental difficulties that may impact the ability to use the switch?
    • Does it come with a mount?
    • Consider the set up requirements. Do you have support for the placement or adjustment of the switch if required?
    • Usability
      • Has the switch been positioned to avoid accidental activation? Some students have involuntary movements that they can’t control, and switches placed in line with these movements may result in accidental activation.
      • Is there feedback that the switch has been pressed? (e.g., tactile feedback from the switch, auditory beep, etc.)
      • How specific is the positioning? Do you need to provide instructions or labels for proper positioning of the device in other environments to make sure it gets placed where the student can press or activate the switch?
      • Consider the environment you will be using it (i.e., home, school, work etc.). Does it need to be lightweight and easy to pack/carry? Does it need to be wireless?
      • Are there any visual, hearing, cognitive, or developmental difficulties that may impact the ability to use the keyboard? (e.g., do you need a specific colour combination or layout to support the student’s vision or act as a cue?)
      • Compatibility
        • Is it compatible with your computer or device's operating system? Is it compatible with the software you'll be using? If not, are there switch interface available that will ensure it is?
        • How does it connect to your computer or device? Is it a wired or a wireless connection? (e.g., USB, wireless, Bluetooth, etc.)
        • What is its’ power source? Or is a separate power source required?
        • Support
          • What is the warranty available for the technology? How are repairs handled? (e.g., is there someone in your area?)
          • How will you get support if you need it? (e.g., a technician in the school, a local vendor, by telephone, by email, remote access, etc.)

 

Resources

Switches and Switch Accessible Toys Manufacturers/Suppliers

SNOW does not endorse any of the following software/hardware. These links are provided for information purposes only.

AbleNet

Abilitations

Adaptivation Incorporated

Don Johnston

Dream-Technology

EnableMart

Enabling Devices

Flaghouse

Inclusive TLC

Infogrip

PRC

ZYGO Industries, Inc.

**Many Canadian vendors who carry augmentative and alternative communication technology will carry switches and switch accessible toys from online suppliers.

 

Switch accessible software

Clicker software (Windows and Mac)

Judy Lynn Software (Windows)

it Inclusive Technology (Windows)

Inclusive TLC Cause & Effect Software (Windows)

Laureate Learning Systems: Special Needs Software  (Windows and Mac)

Soft Touch (Windows and Mac)

Switch in Time Accessible Software (Windows and Mac)

**compatibility of the products vary and some may have only been updated to Windows 7

 

Free/Open Source Switch Accessible Software and Resources

HelpKidzLearn

The Great Fish Race

Oneswitch.org

Switch in Time’ (Mac)

Priory Woods videos

Shiny learning

**compatibility of the products vary and some may have only been updated to Windows 7

** note there are many websites and organizations that have created accessible software or resources; check out the list on Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs

 

Additional useful links

These links are provided for information purposes only. Always take safety precautions when using electronics, power sources and various tools.

CALL Centre's Trying an Eye Blink Switch… in School?

Enabling Devices' Switches: Tips for Choosing

Flaghouse Forum’s Ability Switches: The Nuts and Bolts

Inclusive Technology offers multiple articles on switches from ‘Which Switch? – Helping choosing the right switch’ to ‘Choosing a switch movement’

Practical AAC’s article on making your own accessible toys

Alliance for Technology Access’s Making a Switch Adapted Toy!

DIYability’s article on making switch adapted toys

MakeyMakey’s guide for creating switches from scratch using their interface