SWITCHES - THE 'INPUT`
It is not the intention of this booklet to list all the switches on the market.
I do recommend that you find the right page in the various catalogues supply equipment
for the disabled, so that you can see just what can be purchased. You know the
limited movement available to your particular student, and I am sure that there
is a switch which will help her to capitalise upon that movement.
Here is a list of the sorts of 'input' offered by the free-standing switches
which I have come across.
How might you want the student to operate the switch?
You might want her to :
Press it with her hand
Press it with one finger
Step on it
Suck or blow into it
Speak to it
Move near it
Place her hand near it
Shout at it
Pull its string
Roll onto it
Touch it by accident
Blow on it
I added the last two for fun, because I am not aware that commercial switches
are produced which can be blown on or bashed. But i am sure that, if ever there
were a need for them, i could find a way of adapting existing switches to do the
job, or i could persuade a handy parent to produce something for me. That is the
thing with switches. Every student is different, and every educator has different
plans for every different learner, so it would be impossible for suppliers such
as ROMPA® to produce a switch for every unique learning situation.
The glory of the switching system is that the imagination and inventiveness
of the carer can be harnessed to the durability of the Control Unit.
I have actually made switches myself. The principle is that any two pieces
of metal which touch each other briefly become a 'switch'. If a lead is taken
from each of these, and soldered to the terminals of a jack-plug, the result is
the simplest of input switches. I have done this with doorbell buttons, which
are cheap and easy to work with [please see the OneSwitch.org.uk
- D.I.Y. section].
Securing your Switches
If you are working with disabled students, you will be expecting them to learn
from a variety of positions. Unfortunately, all people are not able to sit on
an upright chair in front of a standard college desk or table. Some people, because
of their disability, may need to operate from horizontal, or from a standing frame,
or from a wheelchair, or from a toilet seat, or from a walking frame. Some may
be seated, others standing. Some may have full control of the limb which is to
activate the switch, whilst others can only manage a gross or approximate movement.
You as carer or teacher will have to devise a means of getting the switch to the
learner. Your methods will be simple or ingenious. Let me offer some examples
from personal experience :
1) Boy whose wheelchair would not reach anywhere near the table. I fixed a
switch to a long piece of wood, then G-clamped the other end of the wood to the
2) Girl with wide, clumsy movements. We put the switch on non-slip rubbery
matting to stop it slipping. Blu-Tack is good for this, too.
3) Boy whose only useful strokes are upward. We G-clamped a pad switch to the
underside of a table.
4) Man who could only lie horizontally. I tied a tug-switch to the bars of
a frame above him, and tied its string to a coloured piece of wood above his head.
5) Boy who had not yet worked out the cause-and-effect principle of switches,
and who has very little voluntary movement. We fixed a touch switch, with Sellotape,
to the back of his wheelchair, so that movement of his head set off the radio.
6) Girl who likes to roll around the floor. Pressure mat placed on her 'rolling