In this Off the Shelf Solutions post, we’ll share how we created a toggle switch adapter that allowed Alexa to be more in control of her environment.
One of the strange things we experienced with ADA regultations on the location of wall switches has been the height that they are required to be at. ADA height requirements for light switches and door openers are not accessible for Alexa. Weird huh? That said, even the rocker switches that are in some houses are the same height as the more typical toggle switches. Lucky for us, Alexa had an adult mentor who had a disability and had the same support needs as Alexa. She and her husband both used power wheelchairs and lived independently. They had grown up in different times and had learned to make adaptions to existing circumstances, like their home, long before the ADA or current technology.
One of the simplest and easiest was their adaptation for toggle style light switches. Using common wire shirt hangers, a drill, and pliers, they had adapted all of the switches in their house so that they could operate whatever the switch controlled. We were quick to replicate this in our house, customizing the length of the coat hanger to Alexa’s reach. It took a coat hanger or two before we found Alexa’s ‘sweet spot’. In our experience, the only real tricky part was to make sure that the end that Alexa would touch would not scratch or cut her. A little sanding or filing and curling the end in on itself solved that problem for us. I am guessing that closet shelf bumpers might work as end caps as well.
Equipment and Supplies used
Tools we used: drill bit slightly larger than the diameter of the coat hanger, hand drill or electric drill, 1-2 pair of pliers
Supplies we used: wire coat hanger(s)
The first thing step was to cut the coat hanger ends off using the pliers. We then drilled a hole in the plastic toggle switch that we could pass the coat hanger through. After configuring a loop for the ‘top’ of the hanger, we had Alexa come over to assess her reach so that we could bend a larger loop within her reach. Some trial and error occurred here as we learned what was easiest for her to operate. I think it took us two tries to get it the way she liked it.
Click the link to watch the ‘prototype’ being attached to the light switch.
After some experimenting with our first coat hanger, we were able to create something a little more refined and aesthetic.
Alexa is currently using Lutron switches that she controls through her phone or ‘Echo’ device in her home. However, we still have the coat hanger switch adaptions in our house for when she visits us.
Video of Lauren demo
Video of Alexa using it