It's easy to take common household tasks, like turning on a lamp, for granted. For people with physical limitations, however, lamps that use a floor switch can be a challenge. Four industrial design students from the University of Ghent in Belgium tackled the issue by developing a switch that can be activated by a dog's nose.
Heleen Bartsoen is confined to a wheelchair. Her service dog Gyproc helps her with many daily tasks, but neither could operate the switch on her lamp, a type designed with a push button that sits on the floor.
The solution designed by the students was a new kind of switch that looks like a tall paddle and uses a lever action to press the switch. Gyproc can turn the lamp on or off by pushing the switch with her nose. Bartsoen simply has to give the command "veritas," and Gyproc will flip the switch.
The switch is also tall enough for Bartsoen to operate on her own. It was crafted using wood components cut out with a FabLab laser cutting machine. Cement inside the box gives the gadget weight and keeps it in place. Once assembled, the new switch is simply placed on top the floor switch. There's no rewiring or alterations to the cord or lamp.
The students went through quite a few prototypes before settling on the final design. The entire process is documented in a detailed blog tracing the device from inception to completion. One particularly interesting challenge to the design involved working with Gyproc's gentleness. The service dog couldn't operate the original floor switch due to not wanting to place enough pressure on the switch to activate it. The long lever and weighted base of the final product helped to sidestep this issue.
The result is a product that could work for a wide range of people with mobility issues. The wood construction is attractive. It looks like it could fit in with pretty much any Ikea-style decor. The design for the device, including downloadable files for a laser cutter, is available for anyone on Instructables.