Assistive Technology for Users with Mobility Disabilities: iOS Switch Control

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The iOS Switch Control accessibility feature is built-in to iOS and can be used with a variety of Bluetooth switches, Bluetooth keyboards, and the iOS device’s screen. This accessibility feature allows people with significant motor disabilities to operate their iOS device.

The iOS Switch Control has two modes that the user can use: item scanning and point scanning.

  • Item scanning scans through all the elements on the page. Sometimes elements are grouped together (for example: a drop-down menu), and by selecting the group of elements, the scan mode will drill down and start scanning the individual elements in that group.
  • For elements that the item scanning cannot reach, point scanning allows the user to select a position on the screen to simulate a tap. The user first selects the horizontal mouse position and then selects the vertical position. A user can switch between these modes through the Switch Control’s menu.

The iOS Switch Control has a comprehensive menu with many helpful tools. Gestures allow the user to pinch or swipe, all with a simple switch. Scroll features allow the user to scroll through the screen. Hardware buttons (e.g., home button and volume control) and access to the notification center are also accessible through the menu. Siri is also accessible through the iOS Switch Control’s menu for voice dictation.

Besides Switch Control, iOS has many other tools for users with limited manual dexterity.

  • Assistive Touch allows users to assign common tasks to custom gestures when they can’t do gestures that require more dexterity, like pinching.
  • Siri/Dictation allows users to dictate text to be inserted into a text field and enables basic control of the device such as launching apps and opening device settings.
  • Touch accommodations allows touch characteristics such as hold duration, repeat filter and activation point to be customized.
  • Settings for hardware keyboards provides customization including: slow keys, sticky keys and keyboard shortcuts (iPad).

Stay tuned for third and final post in this series – focusing on Android Switch Access – coming next Tuesday! Please follow this link to read the first post, “Computer and Mobile Phone Access for People with Mobility Disabilities.”

Video Transcript

To set up Switch Control with a 2 button switch, open Settings and verify that the Bluetooth switch is connected. Then open General, Accessibility, and Switch Control. Activate Switches, then Add New Switch, and then select External. Activate the first switch, name it, and select an action.

Repeat these steps with the second switch. I recommend setting one switch as Select and the other as Scanner Menu.

Now you’re read to turn on Switch Control. First, activate the Home button on the menu. Next, press the Select button and scan through the rows. Press again for the row and again to launch Safari.

If we want to start filling out the registration form on this website, we are first going to use the menu’s Scroll Down option to scroll down to the form. Now we are going to drill down to select the First Name text box, which moves focus to the keyboard. Let’s type my name, Daman. Select the row, then the section, and finally the desired letter.

If the wrong row is selected, the dashed line will go back to the last level. How iOS group keys helps the user save time. Once we have the name entered, activate the dashed lines until we drill back out to the web page elements. Now, drill down and activate the Last Name field. Drill down and select each letter. If the switch is not activated quick enough, activate the dashed line to drill back up a level. Then wait for the scan mode to cycle back to the group of keys you want to activate. We have now filled out the First Name and Last Name fields. (End of video)

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