Switches and Assessment - Part 2

Why use switches?

Consider this: A person with a severe physical disability needs help from the moment they wake up - help with getting out of bed, help with all self-care activities, and help with getting into a wheelchair. They may also need help with getting their computer set up and turned on, and with getting the access device, or switch, in place. They are dependent in almost all areas of function! And then, once exposed to the computer, they need the correct input devices (such as a switch instead of a mouse), and the right applications (software and its setup).

Adaptive switches, with the right applications (such as computers and programmes, communication devices like cell phones or PDA’s, toys, environmental control systems, electronic aids to daily living), can open up a whole new world of horizons for disabled people.

User needs and goals

The first part of any assistive technology assessment involves a detailed analysis of the user’s needs and goals. The actual user should be the most important part of the initial assessment. Before thinking of the activities, the technology and the types of switches required, it is essential to carefully and objectively examine the specific challenges that will be experienced by the user.

The user’s particular strengths and skills must be determined, and then compared to the kinds of activities he or she wants or needs to participate in. By identifying those areas in which improved function is needed, one can then identify the optimum assistive technology, equipment and applications to achieve the desired results.

Determining an access method

One assumes, of course, that other types of selection devices have been ruled out and switch use or Indirect Selection is all that is left. Indirect selection involves the use of hardware, which generally takes the form of adaptive switches, used in combination with a range of equipment such as computers and communications devices, running different types of programmes for various functions. There are several different types of indirect selection options and methods:

Single switch direct response
Single switch automatic timing scanning
Two-switch step scanning
Row-column scanning
Block scanning then row and column scanning

Some Control Sites and appropriate Switches from Tash

Control Site Switches
Head/Cheek Pillow, Leaf, Soft, Buddy Switch, Tash Ribbon Switch
Hand Switches – Single Switches Plate, Cap, Grasp, Round Pad, Heavy Duty Cap, Cup, Platform, Flex
Foot Treadle, Heavy Duty Cap
Dual Hand Switches Rocker, Multiple Switches, Wafer
Blinking movement Scatir Switch
Fingers Trigger Switch, Micro Light, Mini Cup Buddy, Dual Switch - Penta
Sip and Puff Pneumatic Switch, Integra Mouse


Framework for Success

The physical aspects of gaining access to a switch are addressed first.
Next is to develop a sense of autonomy, independence and motivation. These two areas, once established, provide a strong base for long-term learning, communication and participation using the best switch setup for accessing activities. These phases are not mutually exclusive. It is important to work on communication, interaction and participation all the time.

More effort and attention must be directed towards setting up a solid physical switch system for independent user control, to provide an actual level of independence and motivation for the user. If not, a student may struggle to properly activate the switches and subsequently, may not be able to fully participate in educational and communication activities.

Celeste Mukheibir of Inclusive Solutions will be holding Training and Focus demonstrations with switches during June and July 2007. For more information, phone 011-6785685.

Websites: www.tashinc.com, www.inclusivesolutions.co.za

In the next article we will be focusing on software programs and switches.

Columnist Photos