Switches are a common solution for users who need to use computers or other electronic devices, but have difficulty with the physical interface design. A specially-designed switch may be composed of a single button, a few buttons, or a sensory plate, for example. A switch may be touch-free and rely on motion sensors, brain activation, or a sip and puff mechanism. Aside from simplifying input, switches can also be used as a communication tool.
Questions to consider when choosing a switch
- Will the student interact with the switch? By using finger, hand, arm, head, breath, or something else?
- How much force is required to press or activate the switch? Some switches are directly pressed by the user and some switches are activated by movement, voice or muscle activation, for example.
- Are there any visual, hearing, cognitive or developmental differences to consider?
- Does the switch come with a mount?
- Do you have support for the set up, placement or adjustment of the switch if needed?
- Has the switch been positioned to avoid accidental activation? Involuntary movements may result in accidental activation.
- Is there feedback to the user that the switch has been pressed? For example tactile feedback like a vibration or an auditory beep.
- How specific is the positioning? Do you need to provide instructions or labels for proper positioning of the device in other environments to make sure it is placed where the student can press or activate the switch?
- Consider the environments you will be using it in, for example home, school, and work. Does it need to be lightweight and easy to pack and carry? Does it need to be wireless?
- Is the switch compatible with your computer or device’s operating system and software you’ll be using? If not, is there a switch interface available that will connect the switch to the device’s operating system and software?
- How does the switch connect to your computer or device? Is it a wired or a wireless connection such as USB, or Bluetooth?
- What is the switch’s power source? Does it need a dedicated power source?
- What is the warranty available for the switch? How are repairs handled? (e.g., is there someone in your area?)
- How do you access support if you need it? Is there a technician in the school or a local vendor that can be reached by telephone or email?
Switches and Switch Accessible Toys Manufacturers and Suppliers
These links are provided for information purposes only. SNOW does not endorse any of the following software/hardware.
NOTE: Many Canadian vendors who carry augmentative and alternative communication technology will carry switches and switch accessible toys from online suppliers.
Switch accessible software
Clicker software (Windows and Mac)
Judy Lynn Software (Windows)
it Inclusive Technology (Windows)
Inclusive TLC Cause & Effect Software (Windows)
Laureate Learning Systems: Special Needs Software (Windows and Mac)
Switch in Time Accessible Software (Windows and Mac)
NOTE: compatibility of the products vary and some may have only been updated to Windows 7
Free or Open Source Switch Accessible Software and Resources
Switch in Time’ (Mac)
NOTE: compatibility of the products vary
Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs has a robust list of websites and organizations have created accessible software or resources.
The following links are provided for information purposes only. Always take safety precautions when using electronics, power sources and various tools.
CALL Centre’s Trying an Eye Blink Switch… in School?
Flaghouse Forum’s Ability Switches: The Nuts and Bolts
Inclusive Technology offers multiple articles on switches from ‘Which Switch? – Helping choosing the right switch’ to ‘Choosing a switch movement’
Practical AAC’s article on making your own accessible toys
DIYability’s article on making switch adapted toys
MakeyMakey’s guide for creating switches from scratch using their interface