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What is Access?

“Access methods are the ways in which people control [Assistive Technology] equipment. Access to electronic assistive technology is key and a method of access needs to be established for each person and for each device. Access methods can be very specific if the person has very limited mobility or complex difficulties.” -   

The method that a person uses to access assistive technology depends on the skills and abilities of the user. For people without significant physical limitations, “direct selection” is the most common and the fastest method of access. Direct selection means that the user makes a selection on their computer, AAC device or equipment by pointing to the desired symbol/keys on a screen. Direct selections can be made using: fingers or other body parts, switches, joysticks, touch screens, pointers, adapted mice, joysticks, or eye tracking. For people unable to use direct selection, partner assisted scanning and switch access scanning are most often used for “indirect selection”.

Direct Selection


Adapted Keyboards, Mice and Joysticks

Speech Recognition

Eye Tracking

Indirect Selection:

People unable to use any of the direct selection methods may use an access method known as indirect selection or "scanning". The device moves through selections by highlighting each item on the screen (visual scanning) or by announcing each item via voice output (auditory scanning), and then the user activates a switch to select the item. Unlike direct selection, a scanner can only make selections when the cursor has moved to the desired choice, which makes this a less efficient method than direct selection.

In addition, when high tech scanning is not available, “partner assisted scanning” can be used, in which a communication partner uses verbal prompts to identify choices and the user uses vocalizations or gestures to select that item. 


Most battery powered, electrical and electronic household devices have small buttons, switches or dials that are inaccessible to some people with physical disablities. Adaptive switches are designed to provide an alternate means of access to these devices. In their simplest application these switches are used to control just the on and off functions of devices such as lights, radios, tape recorders and battery toys. In more sophisticated applications, adaptive switches can be used to adjust volume or select channels on audio and video equipment, operate a telephone or access a computer. In all of these applications the switch must be used either with a device that has been adapted for switch access or in conjunction with an interface that links the switch to a non-adapted device.

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Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities
1275 Lakeside Avenue East
Cleveland, Ohio 44114-1129
PHONE: (216)241-8230 - FAX: (216)861-0253