FAQs

Adapted Toys

I am looking to buy a switch-adapted toy from your catalog. What size are the switch input jacks?
All of our devices that take switches have 1/8 inch mono input jacks. The only exceptions are the Scanning Cheap Talk models which have two scanning input jacks that are the larger 1/4 inch size.
I have an older switch with the large 1/4 inch plug on the end and it does not fit with the new switch adapted toys I just received. What do I need to make it fit?
We sell adapters that convert a 1/4 inch plug to an 1/8 inch plug. See item #1160 or 1160S.

What is a battery interrupter?
A battery interrupter is a device that allows the user to connect almost any unadapted battery operated device to a switch-adapted unit. It has a thin wafer that sits in the battery compartment and a wire with a jack (connector) that accepts a capability switch. We carry two battery interrupters: an AA Battery Interrupter (#640) and a C and D Battery Interrupter (#641).

Batteries

What is the best type of battery to use in your products? What will give me the longest run time in my device? 
We always recommend a good name-brand alkaline battery such as Duracell or Energizer for all of our products. Alkaline batteries will give you the most run time before having to change them. Some no-name or private label warehouse brand batteries are not always the best choice based on price as they are not as well made and last only about half as long as a good name-brand alkaline battery. If you have to change the batteries twice as often you are not saving in the long run.

Heavy Duty or General Purpose batteries will not work well for our high demand products such as communicators, wireless switches, or CD & tape players. They are fine for simple plush or slide toys where the demand on the batteries is minimal.

How long will a set of batteries last in my communication device?  
For most communicators that are used a few hours daily, you should get approximately 4 to 6 weeks use from a set of good name-brand alkaline batteries. Obviously, if the communicator is used less, then the batteries will last longer. Please note that re-recording on your communicator demands more from the batteries than message playback does.

What does a battery interrupter do and how do you use it?
A battery interrupter is a device which allows you to adapt some battery powered toys and devices so a user with special needs can operate the toy or device with a special external switch.  See our AA Battery Interrupter (#640) and our C and D Battery Interrupter (#641).  Note that a battery interrupter only works with devices that have a simple On/Off switch (e.g. tape player or radio).

Why can’t I use rechargeable batteries?
Is it just a matter that they don’t last as long or will they actually ruin the device? Rechargeable batteries should not be used in our devices (except for a few simple plush toys) because they do not supply the proper voltage needed to run our products. They will not ruin the devices, but most will not work properly. Most of our products run on AA, C or D size batteries. These batteries have an output of 1.5 Volts each (when new out of the package, the output will be closer to 1.6 Volts if they are a good name-brand battery). New and fully charged Rechargeable batteries of the same size only put out 1.2 Volts. For most products this is not enough voltage for the device to work. In addition, the rechargeable battery’s voltage drops very quickly during use compared to a non-rechargeable battery of the same size. Also if a device with rechargeable batteries is stored for a length of time, you will have to recharge the batteries again before use because rechargeable batteries have a much higher rate of self-discharge (about 20-30% per month) than alkalines.

Can I mix old and new batteries together or different types of batteries in devices?
Don’t mix old and new batteries. If you do, more power will be drawn from the new battery and shorten its life. This is the case regardless of battery chemistry type.  Don’t mix battery power systems such as alkaline with general-purpose batteries in the same device. This will reduce the service life of the batteries. Don’t mix brands of batteries in a device. Use only one brand in a device. Each manufacturer’s product works a little differently from others. Using one brand of batteries will assure you the maximum usage from that set of batteries.

Sometimes I have batteries sitting in my desk loose out of the package. How can I check that I am putting all new batteries in my devices? 
The best and only way to test your batteries is with a battery tester. You can buy a battery tester at most electronics stores. Prices range from approximately $7 to $30. We recommend one that has a digital readout so you can see exactly how much voltage your battery is putting out. For AAA, AA, C, D and N cell sized batteries, a brand new alkaline battery should read 1.6 Volts on a digital battery tester. A basic battery tester will have a gauge which tells you “replace”, “low” or “good”. Any type of battery tester is an invaluable piece of equipment to have when working with battery powered devices. With a battery tester you will never have to guess if your batteries are good or need replacing.

My school is closed during the summer break. Should I take the batteries out of our communicators and switch adapted toys? 
Yes, it is a good idea to remove batteries from devices if they are out of use for an extended period of time (one month or longer). This helps to preserve battery life especially with devices that do not have an ON/OFF switch.  These devices go into a “sleep mode” which drains a small amount of power while inactive. Also, it is good to remove batteries because sometimes they go bad and leak battery acid. When batteries first leak, the acid is a rust color brown fluid. As it dries, it will turn into a white powder. If a leaking battery is left in a device for any amount of time, it will start to corrode the battery contacts.  More seriously, if any acid leaks into the device’s electronics it can cause permanent damage to the device.

My batteries have leaked into the battery compartment and some of the battery contacts are covered with this white powder. What can I do to clean this?
Use a piece of steel wool, dry Brillo pad or a kitchen scouring pad to clean the contacts off as best as possible. Then spray or wipe a little WD-40 oil on the contacts to prevent any further corrosion.
What should I do when my battery operated device will not work? First, check that the batteries still have a charge by using a battery tester (see above). Second, check the batteries to verify they have been properly inserted matching the positive (+) and negative (-) terminals of the battery to the device. Third, when your battery operated device runs down, immediately remove the old batteries and replace them with new brand-name alkaline batteries to avoid damage to the device.

What does the date marked on my batteries mean? 
The date shown on the battery is its shelf storage life. The shelf life of a given battery is dependent upon several variables. Primarily among them is the chemistry of the battery itself, as each will have its own characteristic. Temperature and humidity also play a large part in how long a battery retains its power prior to use. That stated, the following table provides the shelf life for many commonly used battery chemistry types:

Type of Battery & Approximate Shelf Life:
Heavy Duty  – 1-2 years
Alkaline –  3-5 years
Lithium (Non- Rechargeable) –  6-8 years
NiCd –  2-3 months before re-charge is required
NiMH  – 1-2 months before re-charge is required
Li-Ion –  4-6 months before re-charge is required

Capability Switches

What is a capability switch? 
A capability switch is designed for people with physical disabilities, offering them an alternative means to interact with computers, communicators,, appliance controllers and switch adapted, battery powered toys.  We offer a broad range of switches designed to suit specific needs and abilities.

What does switch-adapted mean?
Enabling Devices creates switch-adapted products in two ways: (1) we take an already existing product and adapt it to accept an external capability switch or (2) we create a product that has a jack which will accept a switch. In either case, when your switch is attached to the device, the device will activate when you press your switch.

What is the difference between momentary, latched and timer switches?
When you press a momentary switch, the device stays on as long as you maintain pressure on the switch. A latch switch turns on the device when the switch is pressed once and turns off the device when the switch is pressed again. Our Two Function Jumbo Switch #7910 allows you to choose between momentary and latch operation. Pressing a timer switch turns on a device for a preset amount of time (0 to 120 seconds). Enabling Devices has a Switch Modifier (#605) that will change any momentary switch into a latch or timer switch.

Do your switches activate AC powered appliances such as a blender?
Our switches alone will not activate AC powered appliances unless the appliances have been specially adapted for switch use. However, we have an Environmental Control module: #1490 – 1-Switch Single-Appliance Unit. This unit will allow most AC appliances to be turned ON and OFF using a capability switch. As noted in our catalog, items such as radios and bubble blowers have the AC cords removed for safety reasons.

When I plug my switch into a switch adapted toy, the toy runs continually and the switch has no effect on the toy. What can I do? 
When plugging any switch into an adapted device, the plug must be pushed in completely with no gaps between the two connections. If the connection is not tight, the device will run continually and the switch will have no effect on the device connected to it.

What size plugs are on the end of your switches?
All of our switches use 1/8 inch Mono plugs. We also carry adapters that convert 1/8 inch plugs to 1/4 inch plugs and vice versa. See #1160, #1160S, #1170 and #1170S.

Communicators

What is an augmentative communicator?
An augmentative communicator is a speech-generating device (SGD), also known as a voice output communication aid, used to supplement or replace speech for individuals with severe speech impairments, enabling them to verbally communicate. Messages are recorded by someone with verbal ability and then the non-verbal person selects the message that they wish to convey.

What are levels on a communicator?
Levels are an efficient way to organize your messages on a communicator. If a communicator has 7 levels with 16 messages on each level, you can organize your messages by category on each level. For example, Level 1 can have 16 messages about food; Level 2 can have 16 messages about feelings, etc. A simple dial allows you to switch between levels.

What is scanning?
A scanning communicator has lights (or auditory cues) that illuminate (or play) sequentially above each icon square. The user sees or hears the cues and when their desired message is reached, they select their message by activating their switch. The chosen message will then play.

What would cause a 7-Level Communication Builder to be inconsistent in the play back mode, playing only a portion of the message or not playing the message at all? 
Most likely the problem is caused by weak or rechargeable batteries. We recommend a good alkaline battery like Duracell or Energizer. Rechargeable batteries are inappropriate for use because they do not provide enough power to run the units. Also, do not mix batteries from different manufacturers. A new set of alkaline batteries should solve the problem. Under normal daily use, you should get 3 to 4 weeks use from a new set of batteries.

What are the differences between the Communication Builders #7071B, 7075, 7076 and 7077?  
The 7071 Communication Builder has 5 easy-to-change frames, which allows you to refine communication choices as the person develops new skills. Frames included have 1, 2, 4, 8 and 16 window options. Total recording time is 300 seconds.

The 7075 7-Level Communication Builder also has 5 easy-to-change frames with the same window options as the 7071B. However, the 7075 has seven levels for recordings, giving you a total of up to 112 messages (in the 16 window setting) at the touch of a button! Total record time is 300 seconds. Note that it is necessary to re-record all messages when you switch your windows. Also note that you must use the same window setting for all seven levels. For example, you cannot use a 4-window grid on level one and then use a 16-window grid on level two.

The 7077 Four Level Communication Builder shares the same body and control layout as our 7071B and 7075 Communication Builders. While it has the same 5 different window choices, it also has four levels or sets of messages. In addition, unlike the #7075, different frames can be used on each of the four levels while retaining all your messages. In other words, you don’t have to re-record your messages when you make a window choice change. (For example, on Level 1 you can use a four message window frame with four different food choice messages; on Level 2 you can use an eight message window frame with eight different letters of the alphabet; on Level 3 you can use a two message window frame with Yes and No messages; and on Level 4 you can use a one message window frame with a “Hello my name is John” message.)

The 7076 Laptop Communicator functions the same as the 7075. The major difference is the body design. The 7076 has no handle to hold the unit and the five different removable frames are held in place with a Velcro system. (The 7071B, 7075 and 7077 have a spring loaded pin system to hold the frames.) In addition, the 7076 has all its controls on the bottom of the unit, while the 7071B, 7075 and 7077 have them on the back of the unit.

Our Hip Talk plays only a portion of a message when the volume control is set high enough to be heard through the pouch. At very low volume the entire message plays. How can this be fixed?
Your batteries are probably weak. Replace them with a new brand of alkaline batteries like Duracell or Energizer. Do not use rechargeable batteries or mixed brand batteries in a communication device. New alkaline batteries should solve the problem.

We’ve misplaced the instructions for our communicator. Can you provide a new set of instructions? 
Our website has User’s Guides for most of our products. Search for the product on the site then go to the Download tab.

General Questions

What does somatosensory mean?
It means relating to or denoting a sensation (such as pressure, pain, or warmth) that can occur anywhere in the body, in contrast to one localized at a sense organ (such as sight, balance, or taste).

Some students in my classroom continually knock their toys or devices onto the floor. Do you have any suggestions to prevent this?
Many of our products have a “lip” on the edge to make it easy to clamp the product to a table.  We have a selection of clamps available to attach the product to a table – see item #2025,   Our Stay Puts (#8104 – #8109) hold just about any object – toys, utensils, writing implements, etc. – and keep them from dropping on the floor.

My son has cerebral palsy and because of a lack of coordination of the muscles of the mouth, face and neck, he tends to drool excessively. Can you suggest appropriate toys or equipment that will be durable? 
We recommend that you purchase wall mounted toys such as the Wall Mounted Activity Center (#556) and Sensory Wall Panels (#3113B, etc)