Making the SwitchBy Quintero, Alyssa; Quest, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 47-50
Publication Date: March/April 2008
Article describes switches that enable people with neuromuscular disabilities to operate laptop computers, powered wheelchairs, communication devices, and environmental control units. Switches are defined as technology which enables users to direct operation of assistive devices equipped with a switch interface by means of a single action. Several types are discussed: (1) Fiber optic switches, consisting of tiny fibers which require the breaking of an infrared beam of light to operate and have an adjustable activation range from touch to a quarter of an inch; (2) Proximity or “no-touch” switches, which are activated by body heat; (3) Sip-and-puff switches, where one switch is activated by drawing in breath, and another by exhaling; (4) Small dual switches that can be activated by a tongue, nose, or finger; (5) Microswitches, single switches that can be activated by a movement such as the lifting of an eyebrow; and (6) Basic button switches that can be mounted in a variety of ways for computer and wheelchair operation. Prices for switches range from $50 for a button switch to $4,650 for a fiber optic driver control package with four switches. The article recommends trying out any switch system before buying, through a local Muscular Dystrophy Association loan closet, an AT lending library, a State AT Act project, or a manufacturer’s equipment trial period, before purchasing. A resource list of lenders and manufacturers is appended.
Published by: Muscular Dystrophy Association (Website:http://www.mdausa.org)
Link to text: http://www.mdaquest-digital.com/mdaquest/20080304/?pg=47