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AAC Switches

July 27, 2021 4 min read

Switch On to Get Connected

Switches help people with physical disabilities to have access to a computer, tablet or handphone. With this access, people are able to play games, watch videos on Netflix or Youtube, read e-books from various e-book applications and communicate using many Augmentative and Alternative Communication applications available for download on Google Play.

Type of Switches

There are generally two types of switches- those activated by touch and those activated by other actions such as blowing into a tube, using sound, using light or some other movement such as blinking, waving etc. 

Importance of Positioning the Switch

People with disabilities may be restricted in different ways. Hence, it is important that the switch be positioned where it is comfortable and easy to use. Generally, it should be of an appropriate height and distance from the user. The switch should be fixed to a position where it does not move around so that the user would always know where to access it. It should also be in a position where gravity would aid in the operation of the switch. Pressing may be easier than pulling. The use of gravity to add pressure when activating the switch will make it easier for the user.

Learning to Use the Switch

Learning to use the switch is like learning to use any device. Similar to learning how to use a mouse, it gets a bit of getting used to initially. There is a need to strike a balance between the number of the switches and ease of use of the application. Having many switches that can be programmed to many different functions may be great. It will allow the user to navigate the tablet with ease with various shortcuts and enable faster use. However, too many switches will make it confusing to operate especially in the beginning and may put off the user. Hence, striking that balance between the number of switches and the ease of use of the application is important. 

The minimum number of switches needed to operate a tablet is one. However, navigating the tablet with one switch takes a lot of patience. Hence, it is recommended that the user start with two switches, which is adequate to navigate the tablet and operate many applications effectively. Subsequently, the user can increase the number of switches from two to four and even six or nine switches if they feel comfortable to do so.

Keep On Surfing Solution

The Keep On Surfing Solution includes Bluetooth double pedal foot switch device as well as a hand controlled switch device which will allow for flexibility in operating the tablet. You can program the devices to use two switches at the beginning and gradually increase to nine switches if needed. The foot switch allows for up to two programmable functions while the hand switch allows for up to seven programmable functions. The solution comes with a detailed manual on how to program the switches and how to operate the Android tablet effectively. 

Tips on Using Switches Effectively

Learning the function and use of the switches may take some time. The user needs to explore the usage of the switch and understand the cause and effect relationship when the switch is pressed. As a start, the user may just play around with the switch to understand how much pressure is needed to activate the switch. 

After learning how to press or activate the switch, the user has to familiarize himself with the timing to activate the switch.  It is important that the settings on the tablet are appropriately made to correspond with the reaction time of the user. A fast reaction time may allow the user to operate the tablet faster but they may be prone to more mistakes. It is recommended to start with a slower reaction time and increase the reaction time in the settings once the user gets used to navigating the switches.

Different applications may operate differently with switches. Although once programmed the switch will behave the same under any application, the way in which they behave and the types of functions that are available under the applications can be a bit different. Hence, it is advised for the user to familiarize himself with using the switches on one application at a time, starting with the app most used or useful for them (e.g. YouTube). Once he has mastered the navigation through that app, he can then move on to others. When the user understands the principles of using the switches, he will have the motivation to learn how to operate the other applications independently. 

Switches- As Easy as Pressing Buttons

Using switches are easy so long as the user has mobility functions that allow him to press them without much difficulty. Operating a tablet with switches is not as easy as using a touch screen. It does require some getting used to. However, with some patience, someone suffering from Motor Neuron Disease (MND) or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) can benefit greatly from their use and have access to the Android tablet. It allows them to Keep On Surfing the web and with it, experience the enjoyment and convenience of the Internet.


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