- cerebral palsy
- paralysis/spinal cord injuries
- multiple sclerosis
- speech impairments
- visual impairments
- using a motorized wheelchair
- opening doors to a home
- using kitchen appliances
- turning on and off lights, televisions, etc.
- using computers
- simple activation of toys
- EADL (electronic aids to daily living, more commonly referred to as environmental controls)
- computer access
- the need to operate multiple devices through one “integrated” system.
The need of the individual is the basis of the assessment. A switch is the vehicle for obtaining a functional outcome. It is not the goal.
- Physical size (overal dimensions, activation contact area)
- Switch feedback (auditory, visual, vibratory)
- Construction material (best if durable and cleanable; plastic, metal, wood, etc.)
- Shape and size (round, square, oval, etc.)
- Texture of contact area (smooth, bumpy, hard, soft, etc.)
- Output options
- Communicative output (digital or synthesized speech; printed; LCD display; Braille printout, etc.)
- Environmental control (lights, doors, computer, thermostatic, radio, TV, etc.)
- Recreational (computer games, toys, adapted recreational activities, etc.)
- Selection method options (Morse Code, encoding, directed scanning, linear scanning, step scan, row/column scan, auditory scanning, etc.)
- Pressure switches require pressure on the surface activate.
- Lever switches require pressure on the end of a lever.
- Touch switches are activated by touching a projection in any direction.
- Joysticks can be moved in different directions to provide control of wheelchairs or computers or set up as a switch for four devices.
- Sip-n-puff switches are activated by pressure changes by soft and hard sips and puffs into a mouth tube.
- The SCATIR (Self-Calibrating Auditory Tone Infrared) switch is a multipurpose versatile switch that can be activated by eye blink, or eyebrow, finger, head or facial muscle movement.
- Muscle twitch switches are activated by muscular movement perceived on the skin.
- An eye blink switch is activated by each eye blink or double eye blink and can control communication devices, toys or computers.
- Proximity switches operate through electromagnetic force received from proximity to a body part.
- String switchs are activated by pulling and releasing a three-inch loop of string.
- Tongue switches use a dental type plate positioned on the roof of the mouth that has variety of pressure sensitive spots activated by the tongue.
- Directional switches have five pressure spots that operate as separate switches to control different devices or for devices that require more than one switch.
- Mini-Joystick with Pad or Joystick with Pad switchs are similar to directional switches because they can be used to control any device that requires five single switches or can be adapted to control up to five devices operated with a single switch.
- Rocker switches are a type of lever switch generally with a left and right side usually allowing the activation of two different switches.
- Squeeze switches are activated by gripping with the hand onto a cylindrical or other type of handle.
Center photo: Example of a sip-n-puff switch. Photograph by Therafin Corporation.
Right photo: Example of a tongue switch. Photograph by Prentke Romich Company.
- Battery interrupters are used to interface a switch with a battery operated toy or appliance, and are available commercially or homemade. A battery interrupter has a metal conductor that fits between the battery and the battery chamber and the other end has a switch plug. This allows a variety of switches to be plugged into the device. Battery interrupters are available in sizes to fit AA/AAA or C/D size batteries. When using a battery interrupter, it is recommended that a “V” shaped slot is filed on the cover of the battery compartment to prevent the delicate wires from being crimped or broken, thus rendering it non-functional.
- Wireless switch transmitters are devices that allow a switch to operate a device without a direct link between the switch and the desired appliance.
Switch latch timers act as an interface between the switch and the device which is to be operated. Switch latch timers are available for AC (household
current) or DC (battery current). The switch latch timers allow for different operations by hitting the switch. These include:
- Momentary or direct - the device operates while the switch is activated or the connection is “closed.” This function is useful for teaching basis cause and effect or for activities of short duration such as momentarily turning on a blender.
- Latched - switch activation will turn the device “on” and a second activation turns the device “off.” This function is useful for those individuals who are unable to maintain constant activation of a switch or for those activities where an “on/off” function is needed such as turning on and off a light.
- Timer feature – allows for an adjustment in the length of time (either in seconds or minutes) that the device will run before requiring additional activations. This function is useful for training cause and effect when the individual is unable to sustain contact with the switch, so it turns “on” for a specified period of time, but requires reactivation of the switch to turn back “on.”
- Switch mounts can be adapted or are commercially available. The purpose of a mount is to position the switch where it can be easily accessed in a stable, consistent manner. Mounts can be low tech such as placing a switch on non-skid materials (Dycem, plastic drawer liners, Velcro) or mounting the switch on a table top, tray, or other surface. Angled surfaces can be constructed using plywood or cardboard. Commercially available mounts are constructed to be positioned at different angles and can be attached to a variety of surfaces such as wheelchairs, tables, beds, etc.
- A switch tester produces an audible sound when a functioning switch is plugged into the tester, thus ensuring that the switch is operational.
ABLEDATA's primary mission is to provide objective information on assistive technology and rehabilitation equipment available from domestic and international sources to consumers, organizations, professionals, and caregivers within the United States. The site is sponsored by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), which is part of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) of the U.S. Department of Education.
Comprehensive federal website of disability-related government resources with links to state information: Benefits, Civil Rights, Community Life, Education, Emergency Preparedness, Employment, Health, Housing, Technology, Transportation.
Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA)
RESNA is a professional society for individuals and organizations interested in technology and disability. RESNA provides training and resources for professionals and the public including links to finding certified professionals in states.
A commercial site offering instructions on how to make homemade switches, links to vendors, and links to resources.
Adaptive Switch Labs
A commercial site offering switches, cables, adapters, and other equipment and technology solutions.
A commercial site offering switches including specialty, timer, tilt, soft, multiple, and other switches and accessories.
Don Johnston Incorporated
A commercial site offering learning tools and technologies to schools and students including a variety of switches.
Independent Living Technologies
A commercial site offering technology products for everyday life including communication devices, software, switches, and more.
Inclusive TLC (Technology Learning Communication)
A commercial site offering technoogy and software for educational use including switches, software, communication aids, computer accessories, and more.
RJ Cooper & Associates
A commercial site offering computer software and hardware for persons with disabilities.
A commercial site offering assistive technology including switches, computer aids, mobility devices, toys, and more.
Prentke Romich Company
A commercial site offering augmentative and alternative communication devices; teaching materials, switches, and more.
Zygo Industries, Inc.
A commercial site offering communication systems, switches, and other technology products.
A commercial site offering wheelchairs, beds, daily living aids, and more.
A commercial site offering communication devices, computer devices, switches, and more.
Switch It, Inc.
A commercial site offering wheelchair controls, computer controls, and similar equipment.
A commercial site offering wheelchairs, accessories, daily living aids, and more.
newAbilities Systems, Inc.
A commercial site offering a tounge-touch keypad for people with disabilities.
A commercial site offering toys, games, universal access devices, and switches.
A commercial site offering electronic speech equipment, message boards, and switches for people with disabilities.
See all Assistive Technology services providers (111) in our database.
For other services related to this condition, browse our Services categories or search our database.
George C, Lacefield W.
Handbook of Adaptive Switches and Augmentative Communication Devices.
3rd ed. Lexington, KY: Academic Software; 2001. http://www.acciinc.com/Books/HandbookAdaptiveSwitches.htm
Provides information to help select commercially available switches and augmentative communication devices.