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Switches and Input devices

by Lynette Penney | Oct 18, 2012

Switches and Input devices

For people with moderate to severe disabilities using a switch to control assistive devices and computers can provide the user with a degree of independence.

Switches are input devices that can imitate keystrokes and mouse movements and enables access to previously unattainable devices.

There are a variety of switches available to suit the needs of users with different abilities, providing greater independence for them. Switches require a switch interface to be plugged into the computer.

The benefit of switches is that provided the user has at least one voluntary movement, it is possible to operate a computer or environmental device. So there are switches which can be operated by chin, head, mouth and even sound, for more profound disabilities, and switches where the pressure can be altered for those who are heavy-handed with their movements, to people who need to use a very light touch. Switches can also provide auditory and tactile feedback.

General switches can be used with a mouse or in place of a mouse for computer input and sometimes in conjunction with an onscreen keyboard; depending on the severity of disability. They include large button-type switches which are ideal for people whose motor skills may include Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) and would find the click action of a mouse painful to use.

Switch mounting and switch trays are an effective way of providing a stable environment for the switch and will enable the user more control.

Some of the popular switches include:

The Adjustable Joggle Switch - Designed for use by individuals with fine motor and upper extremity disabilities. The Amount of pressure required can be adjusted to fit the needs of the users.

Big Beamer Switch - Operates with stability and freedom and has a large pressure area.

Big Buddy Button - This robust switch is designed for general input switch applications. Colourful, large button suitable for anyone requiring special needs access to the computer.