Make a simple capability switch

John Schimmel, 03/14/2014

Overview & Materials
step 1 of 3

The capability switch is one of the simpliest yet important pieces of assistive technology. A person with physical disability that limits that use of their hands or mobility might use a capability switch to control household appliances, TV, access and control their computer mouse or even drive their wheelchair all from a switch. 

A switch is 2 wires touching

The standard capability switch has one end with a 1/8" (3.5mm) mono audio plug (the male end) which can be plugged into a variety of switch adapted/controllable devices. The 1/8" mono plug has two wires inside (mono has 2 wires, stereo has 3), the wires are neutral in terms of power or ground, they are simply two wires that can be used to open or close a switch.

The other end of the switch is typically button like, it might have a plastic shell, it might have a tangible click or snap. Inside this switch are two wires simply touching, making a connection that allows the operation of the devices or perhaps extends the switch of another electronic device.


In this project you will make a capability switch with basic parts from your local hardware and electronic stores.

  • 1/8" (3.5mm) mono audio cable (we're going to use a male-to-male cable cut in two)
  • 2 Alligator clips cables - with clips on each end of cable.
  • Aluminum foil
  • Wire cutter / wire strippers
  • Masking or electrical tape