In continuing with mouse alternatives for computer control, I would now like to introduce you to multiple switches. They are so called as they have multiple activation surfaces for controlling mouse movements and clicking to select, and can be thought of as flattened joysticks. They each have five switches / activation surfaces for up, down, left, right and select. These switches come in three different types differing mainly in the outlay of the switches or activation surfaces. They are plug-and-play USB devices and each one addresses different, and specific, hand and arm abilities.
Penta Switch - The use of this switch requires only a small range of motion, light touch and targeting ability. It is suited to people with good fine motor skills or finger movements and good targeting ability. It is useful for individuals who have poor arm movement but good finger control and is positioned and strapped appropriately to facilitate finger movements. The five switches are small, just 1 cm in diameter, and are activated by pressing down on the button / activation surfaces. It has both tactile and auditory feedback and is not meant for harsh or rugged environments.
Star Switch - This switch has the same outlay of activation surfaces as the Penta Switch, but over a larger area. Each activation surface is 5.7cms in diameter and slightly recessed. The Star Switch comes with five coloured stickers for each of the activation surfaces which can be used to colour code the different mouse movements. It requires more controlled arm movements than the Penta Switch. It has slight tactile and auditory feedback.
Wafer Switch - This switch’s outlay of activation surfaces is in a straight line from left to right. It has five low-profile activation surfaces slightly recessed into the housing. Each switch is 5.7cms in diameter and printed with a different arrow direction for cursor control or joystick emulation. This switch also requires more controlled arm movements than the Penta Switch. The Wafer and the Star Switches are good for young children learning the concepts of mouse control.
More on switches next time…