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Friday, September 27, 2013

Hands Free Access to the iPad via Switch Activation

Apple's new operating system, the iOS7 enables users to access their iPhone, iTouch, and iPad without having to use their hands to touch the screen.  The new operating system allows switch access to Apple's line of tablets.  If you have questions about switch access to the iPad, I am happy to help--email me at

In order to use the iPad with a switch you will need:
1. iPad (or iPhone, iTouch) with iOS7
2. Bluetooth Switch or Bluetooth Switch Interface
Optional: Mounting (to secure the iPad to a wheelchair, table, etc...)  Mounting options available at www.rjcooper or
What is a switch?
A switch controls an electronic device--it sends a current to the machine to do something.  For example, a joystick on a power wheelchair is a switch--when activated, it sends a current to the driving mechanism to go forward, back, left, right.  A switch does the same thing with a communication device--sends a current to the electronic device to do something.  In this case, the switch makes the iPad scan--row, row, row, column, column, column until it comes to the icon you want then the users hits the switch. 
Switches are at the core of access technology. What can appear to some as simply a "button" can —properly selected and installed—open worlds of access to communication devices, environmental controls, computer software, and mobile devices. (source: Ablenet)
Switches come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  The type of switch that a user needs depends on what muscle movement they have to activate the switch.  The iPad relies on a Bluetooth interface to use a switch with the device.  This means the user has to be utilizing a Bluetooth switch or have a Bluetooth switch interface. 
Bluetooth switches are available at:
RJ Cooper
Inclusive TLC
After choosing the appropriate switch, you now need to sync it to the iPad.  The following information is from Spectronics.

Switching it up in iOS 7

Via by by Charlene Cullen      
The one feature I was really excited about in iOS 7 was the long awaited switch control that Apple has now built into the operating system. As with all first releases there are sure to be some tweaks and further adjustments but I’d have to say I have enjoyed exploring the options for using a switch to access the iPad. I think they will offer people with physical disabilities some great options.
You can find it in the Settings app under General, Accessibility and then Switch Control.

switch 2

Switch Control

My first big tip if you wish to demonstrate switch control is that you need to be able to exit quickly if you need to. You can set this up in Accessibility settings. Scroll to the very bottom and select Accessibility Shortcut (which used to be Triple Click Home). Choose Switch Control so that it has a little check mark next to it. This means that you can triple click the home button and escape from switch control at any time. Now you’re ready to explore!

You have 3 options for the access method in switch control. You can choose from using the screen as a switch, using your head movement or using an external switch. We’ll be focussing on using an external switch but I’d encourage you to play with the other settings. Using left and right head movement is definitely pretty cool to try out!

It’s possible to use 1 switch with Auto Scanning or set up 2 switches for step scanning but make sure that your iPad is paired to a Bluetooth switch interface first. If you’re wondering which interfaces are compatible with iOS7, I’ve tested the Applicator with the new iOS 7 switch control and have also seen several videos with other switch interfaces such as the new Blue2 Bluetooth Switch and the Tecla DOS This is an external link.

Ablenet has put together a couple of great videos that explain switch set up in iOS 7 switch control. This one shows configuration for single switch auto scanning with the new Blue2 interface.

This video shows the new Blue2 interface and setting up iOS 7 Switch Control with Dual Switches with Step Scanning.

Christopher Hills (who, by the way, will be presenting “One Switch, One Head, the World” at our Spectronics Inclusive Learning Technologies conference in May 2014) has created a quick video where he is using the Tecla DOS with iOS7 switch control

And finally, you can see a range of videos on the Accessibility features by Luis Perez, including this
one on the new switch control.

I think that the switch control in iOS 7 has radically changed the access to the iPad home screen and apps. You can now use a switch to navigate and turn pages within iBooks or take a picture/video with the Camera app. The iOS 7 switch control will work across all of the apps that come with the iPad. I also love that there is a menu that pops up that you can scan and select gestures to zoom, pinch and swipe along with access to some other system features.
Some people have already been asking about the apps that will work with iOS 7 switch control. This will be ever changing. Some app developers have been on the ball and already made their apps compatible with iOS 7 switch control. We will need to wait for some others to catch up! I just checked out Facebook and was able to use the switch to scroll through my news feed and post a status.

The apps that were already made switch accessible by their developers, within the switch settings of the app itself, will still work with a switch interface. See Jane Farrall and Alex Dunn’s list of switch accessible apps here This is an external link. They do not all necessarily work with iOS 7 switch control. However, you can use your Bluetooth interface to work across both if you have one that is flexible enough.
You can always contact us if you have further questions about switch control with the iPad. And let us know about your success stories with using iOS 7 switch control too!


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