DIY Switches For People Who Can’t Push Switches

An outstanding number of things most people take for granted present enormous hurdles for people with physical disabilities, including interaction with computers and other digital resources. Assistive technologies such as adaptive switches allow users who cannot use conventional buttons or other input devices to interact with digital devices, and while there are commercial offerings there is still plenty of room for projects like [Cassio Batista]’s DIY Low-cost Assistive Technology Switches.

[Cassio]’s project focuses on non-contact switches, such as proximity and puff-based activations. These are economical, DIY options aimed at improving accessibility for people who are unable to physically push even specialized switches. There are existing products in this space, but cost can be a barrier and DIY options that use familiar interfaces greatly improves accessibility.

Assistive technologies that give people the tools they need to have more control over their own lives in a positive, healthy way is one of the more vibrant and positive areas of open hardware development, and it’s not always clear where the challenges lie when creating solutions. An example of this is the winner of the 2015 Hackaday Prize, the Eyedrivomatic, which allows one to interface the steering of an electric wheelchair to a gaze tracking system while permanently altering neither device; a necessity because users often do not own their hardware.

Arduino Sip n Puff switch

[kayakdiver] is developing a SIP and PUFF controlled kayak, but in order to start you first need a SIP and PUFF switch. These devices allow the user to lightly sip or puff into a tube to control switches or sensors, and are sometimes mounted in joysticks for control of a computer, or wheelchair, etc, but finding the cost prohibitive the next best thing was to whip up their own.

The design is clean and direct featuring off the shelf tubing and fittings, 2 pressure/vacuum switches, and an Arduino. Each one of the switches can detect pressure or vacuum, so one switch set to each is fed though a Y and up to the mouthpiece, since everything is sealed this has the advantage of only needing pressure and not airflow making it more comfortable for the user over long periods, and keeps down on humidity in the tubes.