Switch Hacking…

As you know I like to think a lot about the Hacker model of Disability, and I like to see things broken apart, rebuilt, jury-rigged, and generally customized… With this in mind we have a guest post/teardown/walkthough, from the very wonderful Kate McCallum, who is someone I take very seriously and is an SLT technician from Beaumont College.

Switch Hacking (fixing)

I found myself with a Broken Switch.  This is it:

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 21.04.31


Normally I’d replace it with an identical switch, but unfortunately such things have stopped being produced (Edit – turns out that you *can* still get them, but not immediately.  Failing that I should replace it with something similar – the user has complex access needs and has used this switch for many years. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, nothing  available has the same light touch that the user needs while also in this shape…


So it looks like we have to take the third option. Fix it!

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 21.08.05Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 21.08.16

Turns out that the switch has been broken and fixed before. Unhelpfully, the last person to fix this switch (not me) was too greedy when they soldered the connection and left nothing for the next person to solder to. I don’t have and can’t buy a part to replace it with (this isn’t Hackaday.com, where everybody has bottomless parts bins!)

What I do have is a little cupboard of AAC odds-and-ends. I pick out this:


Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 21.12.09

Though it’s similar it’s not suitable for the target user using it as the shape is not the same and the press too stiff. But there is potential…  Let’s open it up…

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 21.12.15


I’m going to transplant the switch mechanism from the red switch to the, green one, to do that I have to cut at both parts to get them to fit…


Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 21.12.26   Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 21.10.29


That leaves me with the last problem: press resistance. Fortunately, it turns out that some careful bending of the wire to reduce the press resistance solves this.

We pop it all back together, test it, and deliver back to the person who uses it. Now everbody is happy. But this just underlines that accessibility technology needs to, not only be accessible for use, it needs to be modular and accessible for maintenance as well. We understand how important these devices are to people, and we waste nothing.








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