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.








Computer Games and disability

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 11.30.00

My name is Tom, and I had a stroke at 28. I wasn’t eating burgers exclusively and smoking 20 a day – I was diagnosed with something called Takayasu’s arteritis. This was a bit shit and I was hospitalised over Christmas. When I was released discharged the following May, I was in a wheelchair that I needed someone else to push – both my left leg and arm were entirely non-functional. Over the last four years I have regained some use of my affected leg, but none in my arm. this is a sad sad story but not the main focus of this post.

I want to talk to you about Computer Games.

Losing my left arm put a real crimp in my gaming. I used to play a wide selection, from a variety of MMOs, through my favourite MOBA in HoN, various FPS and RPG titles – the lot really. as I’m sure you’re aware, gaming needs two hands to be done properly. Whether holding a controller or using the Master Race combo of mouse and keyboard, the left hand plays a vital part. I’ve had to relearn how to play my favourite PC games using only a mouse. it’s not super difficult but it is tricky.

Fret not, I am fast approaching my point.

I am trying to set up an online resource for disabled gamers ( I know one already exists, but I want to try a slightly different approach), but I’m aware my insight is completely focussed on my own disabilities. So I want to talk to other disabled gamers and get their views on struggles faced, overcome and so on. I think if we share how each of us beat a particular problem we can assemble a veritable trove of information for other players round the world who might be facing similar issues – playing Computer Games is a Human Right and we need to enable anyone who wants to be able to.

To that end, I want to talk to you.

If you’re a gamer who has some kind of disability or injury, I want to send you a very short questionnaire to help me establish some sort of baseline. There’s also a chance that later down the line I’ll be looking for what we can optimistically term ‘staff’ to help run this resource.

If you’d like to help Tom and help out with his questionnaire his email address is contact@ouchmyface.org .

Guest post at FoIman

I did another guest post for the excellent foiman blog – you can read it at: A Tale of Two Commissioners – FOI Man. For your interest, the summary is below..


In my previous guest post I wrote about problems with burden of proof in the Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner (OSIC). Today, I’ll highlight another issue with OSIC.

Recently I completed a study into the supply of communication aids and, in the process, built an open-access data-set for other researchers. It was a worthwhile project that’s been (I believe) able to make a small difference in the lives of people I care about. The project required a set of FOI requests to be sent out to NHS services to find out what equipment they were buying to help people speak (The study report includes some thoughts about the Freedom of Information processes).

Of course, even though both sides take every effort to minimise them there are always confusions, miscommunications, and the like that can generally be straightened out by a phone call (I don’t think it’s coincidence that the two cases I’m about to talk about had an effective policy of either not answering the phone or simply refusing to discuss). Sometimes you can’t straighten them out, and so you have the option of asking the ICO or OSIC to review the case.

I recently had two of these finish in the same week, and I think it’s instructive to look at how the appeals were dealt with.