I thought for my first AT project post I would start with something easy, and something that many people may not consider Assistive Technology, since it is a Low Tech solution. For this one I have to give credit to my Mother-In-Law, thanks Nana!
We are constantly looking for ways that J can help around the house. J’s disability includes physical challenges that impact both J’s gross and fine motor control. This often leads to a number of explorations into the world of AT around our house. This particular exploration focused on trying to find a routine task that J could do with minimal assistance. In a flash of brilliance my Mother-In-Law decided to look at how J could help with turning on and off the lights. (Again, way to go Nana!)
The problem is that our house has the traditional light switches. J’s motor challenges made these difficult to use. These switches are too small for J to grab, and require an amount of force to flip that would result in J’s hand slipping off the switch instead of throwing the switch.
I cannot speak for the order of events that lead to the solution. My wife and Mother-In-Law called me into the living room to show me something. What they showed me was a simple solution that we have been using ever since.
Nana had repurposed the tubing that came with J’s suction machine. After cleaning it (of course), she cut the two blue ends off the tube. She cut one right at the end of the blue tip and the second she cut about 3/4 to 1 inch up the clear tubing (so it was a bit longer). Here is a picture of the suction tubing still in the package with the bottle and filter.
Suction bottle, filter, elbow, and tubing package. This is the tubing we used. Note the blue tips on either end of the tubing.
Nana then took these blue tips and pushed them right over the light switches. The were tight enough that they stayed on. They extended the light switch to a length that J could hit and operate the lights. J could run a hand up or down the wall until it contacted the new and improved light switch, then continue to sweep that hand to turn the light on or off.
Here is a set of pictures of one of the light switches. This happens to be the shorter original adaptation that Nana made. We only adapted one of these switches since the second is for decorative (versus functional) lighting. It also gives you an idea of the before at the same time.
One of the light switches we adapted. The blue tip is also a soft rubber that makes it gentler on “big swipes”.
A second view of the same light switch. Notice just how much extra length that is added to the switch with this adaptation.
J now participates in our regular routines and is responsible for turning on and off our adapted lights. Daddy holds J up next to the wall and J very intentionally and carefully reaches out a hand, slowly grabs the adaptation, and flips the switch. Daddy then struggles with all his strength to keep a hold of J as a happy dance with huge laughter follows.
Here are a couple of action shots of J turning off the lights before heading to bed.
J using a soft hand and the wall to “spider walk” a hand to the light switch.
Lights out and its time to go to bed!
This is a quick and easy (assuming you have the suction tubing) adaptation that makes light switches much more accessible. If you do not have suction tubing I would look at trying things like pen caps, etc..