Connecting switches to your computer

Posted 24th July 2018


For users who are unable to access a computer through a keyboard or mouse, switch operated software is available. Such programs allow the user direct access using a switch device. These devices are available in different sizes and colours such as the smaller Mini Cup Switch to the larger Big Red Twist Switch. These wired button switches all include a 3.5mm jack plug type connection and may also include screw holes for attachment to a mounting system.

Switch Interfaces

To connect switches to the computer you will need a "switch interface". This is a little box with a cable that normally plugs into your computer's USB port. The switch interface includes multiple jack sockets for you to plug your switches into. Some switch interfaces such as the Crick USB Switch Box also includes software to install onto your computer to enable the user to configure the device. There are also switch interfaces such as the Inclusive Simple Switch Box which requires no additional software to install making it easier for the user.

Using a Switch

When you press a switch, the interface box makes the computer think that the space bar (or some other key) is being pressed. So, if you run a storybook activity, where normally you would press the space bar to turn the pages, you can now use a switch to do the same. Interface boxes can be set to behave like different keyboard keys, mouse buttons or even mouse movement, allowing the user to operate the direction of a mouse pointer using multiple switches.