Small red switch.

One Switch

Most people interact with their technology in a variety of ways. If you are using a laptop you probably use a trackpad and a keyboard. If you use a desktop computer you could use a mouse, a keyboard, or even a wireless trackpad. If you have an iPhone or an iPad you interact with your device using your fingers or perhaps a stylus. But there's another way.

There are some people who can't use a mouse, a keyboard, or even an iPad touch screen. This could be due to paralysis or the condition like cerebral palsy. That doesn't mean that they cannot use an iPad or Mac to do the same things you do.

In fact all you need to be able to do to use an iPad or a Mac is the ability to push a single button. This single button can be a lifeline to doing literally everything on your device. Last year I had the pleasure of presenting with an individual who uses a sip and puff switch to interact with his computer. A sip and puff switch is a straw that allows a user to blow or inhale to trigger a switch. With access to literally only two buttons he is able to do everything I can do on my computer using a software program called SwitchXS . He creates graphics with Photoshop, browses the web, emails friends and family, and watches videos online. Recently with the release of Mac OS 10.9 Mavericks and iOS 7 for the iPad and iPhone the ability to control all your Apple devices with a single switch is now available to everyone right out of the box with a new feature called Switch Access.

During my interactions with switch users I have tried my best to find ways of making accessing the computers more efficient, easier, and fun. personally on both my home and work computers I have gone to great lengths to use automation software to make things I do daily easier. I've even created special shortcuts and automations to make interacting with the computer faster and more efficient for a good friend who is blind. But I've stuggled when it comes to understanding the types of automations and tools a switch user would most benefit from. This is basically from lack of perspective. I have created tools and I've given advice to switch users, but I always wonder if my advice is missing a personal touch. So I came up with an idea.

Instead of guessing what it is like to be a switch user and guessing at the types of automations and tools they would like to use, I've decided to try to be a switch user myself. Over the next month I am going to set up my computer, my iPhone, and my iPad for switch use. I'm going to look through my daily tasks and figure out what type of automations I would like to have if a single switch was my only way of accessing those devices. I'm going to set up each device with homemade automations and workflows so that I can do the things I do regularly on my computer with a single switch. Then, for an entire week in my personal time I'm going to only use a single switch to interact with all my favorite Apple devices. At the end of my experiment I'll go back look through the automations and the workflows I created, refine them if necessary, and share them with anybody who would like to try them out themselves.

During my experiment being a switch user I will regularly update you on my experiences and progress. Also, I'll walk you through my preparation as I get ready for my week of using only one switch.

Before I go any further you should know that for this experiment I'll be using only one switch at home but not at work. I have a full time office job and although this experiment would be very useful in the workspace my current work load does not permit the committment it would take. If this experiment goes well I will try to expand it further.

The Plan

I'll be breaking this project down into four separate weeks.

  • Week One
    • Examining the in's and out's of Switch Control
  • Week Two
    • Building automations and shortcuts based on regular tasks
  • Week Three
    • One switch for a week
  • Week Four
    • Review and share
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