Big Technology for Little Fingers
- By Laurie Watanabe
- Apr 01, 2011
They're niches within the niche: Manufacturers who
create switches and proportional driving controls for
power chairs, and who constantly evolve their products.
Lisa Rotelli is the VP of Adaptive Switch Labs (ASL).
“We began the development of products which could
allow children who had never been considered candidates
for power — those who couldn’t pass the ‘standard’
assessment/tests in seating clinics — to be able to drive,”
she says. “This included not only very young children, but
also older children and young adults, particularly with
cerebral palsy, who couldn’t drive with a joystick. I have
also, as a manufacturer, been involved with very young
children, especially those with SMA, in using our ‘minijoystick,’
which is a very small and very sensitive joystick.”
Today, ASL’s lineup features “our electronic switches —
which include proximity sensors in head arrays, and our
fiber optic switches and photo electric switches. (They)
have been and continue to be used by children of all ages,
in our usual configurations, as well as unique configurations
we help in customizing. We have developed many
trays which have embedded in them fiber optic switches,
for use with children who have weakness and limited
range of motion, as well as using head arrays in varying
configurations to assist children in learning how to drive
using their head. We make products which can easily be
adjusted, altered and configured to work with all children
and their specific needs.”
Christopher Ligi, national sales manager for Switch-It,
says his company has taken cues from the gaming industry.
“A therapist gave me this idea,” he says. “To design a
control based on an Xbox or PS2 controller. Not only is
that a fun, motivating thing, but it’s a controller that goes
with them. You try to mount the joystick where they can
access it, but maybe they’re moving around. That joystick
can be held in their hand.”
Switch-It makes both proportional and switch controls,
and Ligi notes that some kids end up using a proportional control as a de facto switch by, for instance, pushing the
joystick all the way forward or not pushing it at all, instead of
pushing it forward in degrees.
But Ligi still sees benefit in that.
“If you had a device that was proportional, and they were
using it only as a switch, that in itself is getting them driving,”
he points out. “They could potentially see and learn that
cause and effect.”
And that’s the entire point, he adds.
“We don’t know what they’re capable of learning sometimes
until they try it. And we don't learn everything at once. It’s a
gradual thing. Maybe they won’t grasp it. But maybe they will.”
This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of Mobility Management.
Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at email@example.com.