Switch access


What is it?

Switch access (also known as switch control), along with other alternative control devices and methods (such as physical pointers, eye and motion tracking, and speech input) is designed to substitute the combination of keyboard and mouse. Switch access is commonly used by people with motor disabilities, and can also be useful for some people with cognitive disabilities.

Switch devices can have one or multiple switches, and they may also be used in combination with other kinds of alternative controls. Switches typically have two states (such as on/off or pressed/unpressed).

A switch can be, for example:

  • A button you can press.
  • A pedal you can step on.
  • A sip-and-puff, which detects whether you are inhaling or blowing air.
  • Different types of sensors that can detect biting, pushing, pulling, pressing, blinking, squeezing, etc.

Switch access is built into operating systems for macOS, iOS, Windows, and Android. Switch integration can happen in multiple ways:

  • Some switches can be directly connected via USB or Bluetooth.
  • Other switches require an intermediate interface to connect to the main device.
  • Certain mobile devices can also map switches to hardware buttons, screen regions, or head movements detected by the camera.

Switch users can receive feedback on their operations through different senses:

  • Sight: focus highlights, screen flashes.
  • Sound: beeps, sounds, voice.
  • Touch: vibration.

We ensure switch access support when we create services that accessible to keyboard users. Learn more about how to do this on our keyboard testing page.