The seemingly straightforward ‘switch’ can open up a whole new world for people with physical or cognitive difficulties. These pages will show what switches are and what they can do.
What are Switches and Who are They For?
Find out about switches and what you can do with them in this short article summarising the benefits of the technology.
Types of Switch
There are a broad range of switches available from the cheap and commonly-used Jelly Bean to the more specialist sip-and-puff. Matching the right switch to your abilities is incredibly important.
Much as people try, you can’t just plug your switch directly into the microphone socket on your computer or your iPad. Instead you need to purchase a switch interface.
Here are two case studies showing how switches can be used to help two very different students.
I’ve made some flash animations to show the popular methods of scanning using On-Screen Keyboard or other scanning-compatible software.
On Screen Keyboards
Any user who accesses a computer using only one or more switches will need an on-screen keyboard in order to be able to produce text on the computer.
Using a Switch as a Mouse Button
Take a look at this animation that demonstrates how a switch can be used to emulate a mouse button, therefore making a mouse, or mouse alternative, more accessible.
Switch Activities & Accessible Games
The quality of switch-accessible games and activities is improving and more switch-accessible software is being released, some of which is free.
Accessing the Internet Using Switches
Accessing the Internet using switches alone is possible but its ease and practicality depends on the web site you are attempting to access.
Why don’t we all use Eye Gaze?
Eye Gaze is seen by many as a replacement for switch access. It is certainly very efficient as emulation of the mouse is much quicker than scanning with a switch. It also allows access to a far greater range of activities, including Eye Gaze Painting. However the Eye Gaze systems can be prohibitively expensive and in any case it is a good idea to have switches installed as a back-up in case the Eye Gaze stops working.
Eye Gaze is also not available to all people. Many individuals with cerebral palsy, for example, experience difficulties with eye movements and people with learning disabilities often find it difficult to understand the eye gaze systems.