You might have heard that the new iOS7 offers switch access? There is now a "Switch Control" section in the Accessibility section of your settings. Apple listened. Using third party adaptive accessories to access and manipulate items on the touchscreen we can now switch our way through.
You can find it in the Settings app under General, Accessibility and then Switch Control. To learn all the current specifics, go to Switching it up in iOS 7, also be sure to check out these videos provided by AbleNet. As stated, "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." A cool feature is 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.
As AbleNet states, "Never before has a mobile operating system come with such a powerful switch accessibility toolset built directly into the operating system. With one or two switches, users with significant physical disabilities can easily access an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch running iOS 7 to do tasks like using an AAC app, writing an email, browsing the internet, watching a video, or listening to music."
Remember, it will continue to be a journey. Some developers have been on the ball and have their apps ready to go but many are trying to catch up. There are glitches to figure out but, it's a wonderful start!! Keep watching. And remember, 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. 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.
As BridgingApps states so clearly, "Switch accessibility is a type of assistive technology that enables people with physical or cognitive disabilities to access an iPad. There are a wide variety of switches as well as many different ways to activate them. For example, there are switches that you can push, pull, press, blink, squeeze, puff, kick, or touch. Basically, there are switches for almost any body part that can produce consistent and voluntary movement. However, a switch cannot be directly plugged into a iPad. So, in order to use your switch with your tablet you must have switch interface. Switch interface bridges the connection between the switch and the iPad."
There are switches designed specifically to use with an iPad. A switch cannot be directly plugged into an iPad so specialized switch interfaces must be used. These work on Bluetooth, they are not the same as the wireless switches that you might be using in the classroom. Several manufacturers have ventured into this world but it is not a flawless journey yet.
Jane Farrall has explained this well: "Switch access to an iPad is currently limited to specific Apps. Each App developer must include the code that offers switch access as they develop the App. As things stand, it is not possible for you to use a switch to leave an App or to move between Apps – switch access is in-App only. Hopefully this is going to change in the near future. Recently, we have seen the development of the iPortal which enables joystick control of the whole iPad using VoiceOver . In addition, the new AssistiveTouch feature in iOS5 looks like it will provide potential for overall alternative access to the iPad at some stage.
In addition to a switch accessible App, you also need to have an iPad switch interface. Currently, there are three Bluetooth switch interfaces available, and one which plugs into the 30-pin dock connector port on the iPad. Any of the switch interfaces which connect via Bluetooth will reduce the iPad’s battery life and also may ‘lose’ the Bluetooth connection intermittently. Some people find this to be a problem, but others don’t. The interface which connects via the iPad port has the limitation that you are unable to connect anything else to the port while it is connected – which means that I am unable to charge the iPad or connect it to a VGA monitor while I am using the switch."
Jane provides a great listing of the switches and interfaces available to use with an iPad in her posting: How do I use a switch with an iPad?
For a listing of apps that are available for use with an iPad, visit: Switch Accessible Apps for iPad/iPhone and Switch Accessible iPad Apps Handout.
By providing students with special needs access to a switch, the child's life can be greatly enhanced. The child can then activate and experience the pleasure of a toy. When you see the look on the child's face the first time they activate a cause/effect type of toy, it will demonstrate the need to allow switch access. A switch can provide access to things that the rest of us may take for granted and can be the greatest asset toward an inclusive classroom.
Lists of switch accessible apps can be found on the following sites, just remember the ever-changing and increasing world of apps:
- BridgingApps - Non-AAC
- BridgingApps - AAC
- Enabling Devices - Offers a PDF listing
- Pinterest board of Switch Accessible Apps and iPad Compatible Switch Accessories
- Switch Accessible iPad Apps by Dan Herlihy