So Many Switches!

There are so many assistive switches on the market that it can be hard to know where to start. So, we here at Disability Tek thought it might be helpful to focus on the various types and functions of these switches to assist people in what may be best for them.

Firstly, what is an assistive switch? Well, an assistive switch is an input-output device that allows an individual with physical challenges to activate assistive technology devices and switch enabled devices. These devices include speech generating devices, appliance controllers, environmental control systems, switch adapted battery powered toys, PC’s, iPads, iPhones etc.

Did you know that assistive switches fall under 5 main categories? These include;

  1. Sip/puff switches – These switches are activated by mouth with a single function of a puff or sip, or dual function using both. Sip/puff switches are particularly useful for a person who has limited upper limb movement. E.g. Quadriplegia. Various companies manufacture their own version of the sip/puff switch.
  2. Mechanical switches – These switches require user activation by physically depressing or grasping the switch through moving a body part. Mechanical switches can provide auditory and tactile feedback. These switches are a great option for someone who is learning how to use a switch for the first time or if the user has some cognitive or visual impairment. Wireless switches are available within this category. Examples of mechanical switches include the Jelly Bean Twist, Buddy Button, Grasp Switch and the Big Beamer Twist Wireless Switch.
  3. Voice/sound switches – These switches are activated by sound or voice and are useful for people who lack physical control.
  4. Touch/low touch switches – These switches are particularly good for those that have reduced strength as they require less force in order to be activated. However, they don’t offer the same feedback as mechanical switches do. Examples of these switches include the Plate Switch, and Membrane Switch.
  5. Sensor/proximity switches – These switches are activated by a slight body movement of a body part such as a muscle twitch or a movement to break a beam or to come within a certain range of a switch to activate it. Sensor/proximity switches are particularly useful for users who have limited strength or movement such as MND/ALS. Examples of these switches are the Eye Blink Sensor, Adjustable Proximity Sensor, Peizo Switch Candy Corn Switch and Mini Beamer.

Disability Tek is endeavouring to provide information on the various switches that are currently available through various tech companies on our website under User Set Ups, if you would like to learn more, why don’t you take a look.