Using the Screen as a Switch for iPad Access


Like many other assisitive technology practitioners who have worked with the iPad since its release in April 2010, I have experienced both awe and frustration in implementing the device to support individuals with disabilities in the field.  One question that has come up many times in regards to the iPad in my practice is how a switch can be used to access the device for individuals who cannot physically access it in the standard way.

A few product developers have offered Bluetooth connected switches to use with the iPad, but I have found two major problems with this approach:  first, the Bluetooth connection with these switches is not always reliable; and, second, prior to the release of OS7, this method has only worked with a select number of apps, each of which was specially designed to support the use of a switch.  A switch could not be used with other apps or with the set-up or features of the iPad (like volume control) mainly because the device itself would not scan.

There are lots of useful (and cool!) accessibility features available in OS7; one of these is SCANNING!!  Any iOS device that is running OS7 can be set up to be accessed now with a switch … or through built-in methods involving the integrated camera or the device’s screen.

Here’s how to set up the device for access by touching the screen — 

Go to Settings >> General >> Accessibility.  click on Speak Selection; turn that to ON.  That sets up the device for what is known as Auditory Scanning, which results in the selections being called out as the choices are presented.  This is very helpful for individuals with visual impairments and some other disabilities too.  You may decide that it’s too noisy and/or distracting or just not necessary to have this on later, but it’s worth trying it out at first to see how the feature works.

Next, go BACK to Accessibility and select  Switch Control.  You will see that Auto Scanning is already set to ON.  (Leave it that way.) Under Timing, select Auto Scanning Time and click the + button until it reads “2 seconds.”  This will slow down the scanning time and make it easier to learn how to use the feature; this setting can be adjusted as needed to make the scanning process move more quickly or more slowly as needed.

Then go BACK and select Switches.  Choose Add New Switch.  This is where you can choose what you want the switch (or whatever you set up to act as a switch) to do.  To set up for screen access, select Screen >> Full Screen.  Here you will choose the function that you want the switch to perform when it is selected.  To start out, choose Select Item.  Now click on the HOME button (the center button at the bottom of the device) to go back to the Home Screen.

Here comes the fun part … and I definitely recommend this be tried out by the person recommending it prior to trying it with an individual with a disability …

Triple click on the HOME button to start the scanning process.  Important to note: when you want to exit out of scanning mode, triple click it again.

You will hear the voice call out the options and see a blue box around the choices as the device scans through whatever is on the screen.  When you want to make a selection, tap anywhere on the screen.  The device will then scan through any other options within the item you selected until you touch the screen again.  Once there are no other groups of options available, you will be shown a small black box listing options.  To make that selection, touch the screen again when a box is shown around Tap.  (You can also exit the menu or perform other functions by making alternate selections within that black box.)  Warning: this often takes a good bit of practice; it can be a useful option — but there is a definite learning curve.

The next post will cover access of an iOS device by head movement using the built-in camera.

As always, thanks for reading!  Comments and questions are welcomed and appreciated!



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