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Adaptive light switch

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Access to light switches is commonly built for those of normal stature in mind, and all too often light switches are placed at heights unsuitable for those who use wheelchairs, are of short stature, or have other disabilities. While there are some guidelines in place today to help ensure the accessibility of light switches to all users, the guidelines themselves are rather vague and may not suit the individual needs of each person.[1] Outlined below are several options to make light switches more accessible to all users.


Light Switch Extenders

Commercial light switch extenders are available for sale to the general public. These extenders are long, plastic rectangles with a handle at the end for holding on to when pressing up or down to activate the switch. Light switch extenders are installed by screwing on over the existing faceplate with a hole in the center for which the switch should be placed in. Others are attached to a toggle light switch via a rubber cap that fits snugly over the switch. These units extend the light switch down 12-18 inches, allowing users of lower stature to activate and de-activate the switch. Some extenders glow in the dark, making the switch easier to use at night.

While these light switch extenders are extremely helpful, they do have their limitations. First, they appear to only work for toggle switches and not for other types of light switches. A user’s range of motion and strength may also not be adequate to operate the light switch extender, depending on the amount of force required to push up or pull down the switch.

Inexpensive Alternatives

However, if the user does have a wide enough range of motion and can apply necessary force, a pole or stick-like object may be used as an inexpensive alternative. Rulers in particular often have drilled holes in their ends suitable for latching on to a toggle light switch.

Lamp knobs

Another common problem around the house for those with impairment are those pesky little knobs on lamps. For this there is a device called an extension lever or knob turner for use on table lamps by persons with prehension or upper extremity disabilities. A triangular lever that is attached over the pre-existing knob allows for easier turning. Extension inserts are included with this product to fit most lamp threads.

Sound-Activated Light Switches

The Clapper

Sound activated light switches have been around since the 1980s. This first mass marketed innovation requires the user to plug in a Clapper unit into their wall outlet and then plug in the desired appliance, including lamps and other light fixtures, into the Clapper. When a user claps, the Clapper turns the appliance(s) on and off respectively.

The Voice-Activated Switch

If the user is unable to clap, a more recent variation of this product is available. There is now a similar voice-activated switch which users can also plug their appliances in to, however this device simply responds to words such as “low”, “medium”, “high”, or “off”, as well as any other words the user chooses to program.

As with many products, these too have their limitations. Such sound-activated switches can only be used on appliances that can be plugged into a wall outlet, and even at that, some appliances with heating and other elements are not recommended for use with these products.

Wireless Light Switches

The Home Shopping Network recently marketed the wireless light switch, which plugs into an outlet. What differentiates this product from the rest is the fact that it operates on a radio frequency, allowing the user to use the switch as a remote control to turn lights on and off. However, this product is once again limited by the type of appliances and lights that can be used with it, as well as the user’s ability to manually operate the light switch.

Self-powered wireless light switches operate on a radio frequency (868 MHz or 315 MHz) but the switch itself does not require batteries. The wireless switch made by a German company named EnOcean creates its own energy when the switch is pressed. This product is unique because it is wireless and battery-free. This self-powered light switch works with a wide variety of receivers that are available in the U.S. through a company called Adhoc Electronics.

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