Switched onto successful access to mobile tablets

This blog post includes resources and links for the workshop session “Switched onto Successful Access to Mobile Tablets” at the Spectronics Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference May 2014 .

Information has been compiled by the Spectronics Consultancy Team. Please email us on mail@spectronicsinoz.com if you need any further information.

Please view the slides here:

Considerations for success

We know that using a tablet requires particular gestures such as swiping and tapping which people with physical impairments are not able to perform. Since tablets hit the market we have had many developers working in the disability field who have crated apps and hardware to enable individuals with physical disability to access them. Once you have worked through an assessment framework and decided on the tablet hardware there are further considerations such as the switch interface and type of switch, positioning and mounting the switch and tablet and additional accessories. The following resources provide you with some assessment considerations when you are looking at switching, whether it is with a tablet or other hardware.

Resources for assessing and developing switch skills

You may be working with someone who is a beginner to switching or someone who is further down the track with well established skills. The following websites give you some steps to help you get past that initial stage of cause and effect and helping the individual learn to use switches functionally for communication or navigation around the tablet.

Switch interfaces for tablets

Before you start switching with a tablet you will need a switch interface along with the switch. Some interfaces have the switches built into them and some are wireless. These are some of the switch interface options available currently:

How do I connect the switch interface to the tablet?

The following video clips demonstrate how you can pair a switch interface with either an iOS or Android device.



Switch Accessible apps

Some developers have made apps that are switch accessible. You do not need to set up any other switch control settings other than what is within the app itself.

List of Android switch accessible apps

List of iOS switch accessible apps

Switch control in iOS7

Recently, Apple included switch control into the iOS7 update. I wrote about this change in this blogpost which includes some great videos on setting up 1 or 2 switches and some links to other resources such as a guide to Switch Control in iOS7.

In addition to the useful videos on setting up 1 or 2 switches you can see the difference between Item scanning and Point scanning in these short videos.

Item Mode

Point Mode

Tracker Pro and Android

The Android options for controlling an ipad are quite flexible and you also have the option of mouse control. Watch this video to observe how you can use the mouse control with a switch using the Tracker Pro.


Over the past few years I’ve had many a phone call relating to switch interfaces. These are a few of the tips and tricks I have learned along the way.

1) The keyboard has disappeared – because the switch interface is interpreting the switch press as a keyboard press it can cause some confusion on the tablet. Sometimes you might find that you have turned off switching options and gone to type a note up and the keyboard doesn’t come up. Don’t worry too much. You can often find a little button on the switch interface with an icon of the keyboard. Press this and your keyboard should pop up. Otherwise just do a complete shutdown of the tablet and you should find it appears again.

2) The switch isn’t working

If the switch isn’t working I would try to pair the interface again which might require telling the tablet to “forget” the switch interface and start from scratch. Check your settings or mode for the switch interface. Some of them have modes that do specialized functions eg. operate the camera, play timed music. And it can often come down to hardware – maybe the switch itself needs a look at. Try it out with other devices or a switch operated toy to see if it’s behaving correctly.

3) Can I use a physical keyboard?

It is possible to plug in a keyboard or use a bluetooth keyboard and operate it as a switch. If plugging in physically you need the Camera Connection kit for and iPad. Most Android devices will have a USB port for a keyboard. This will work for some specific apps that have been programmed for using switches such as the HelpkidzLearn apps. Many of them use “SPACE” and “ENTER” keys so if you don’t have a switch or switch interface handy then the keyboard can be a temporary option.

Using a switch in motivating fun ways

Last but not least there are some great functional activities you can use with students to motivate them with their switch use whether they are starting out or well on their way.

Controlling Lights

Using special lightbulbs, wireless bridge and an app (in the video we are using the Philips Hue Lights)

Camera and Music control

Please contact us if you have any comments or questions about using a switch with a tablet.


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About Charlene Cullen

Charlene has worked as a speech pathologist, supporting people with complex communication needs and learning disabilities for the past 15 years. She has worked in a variety of roles within the Disability Services of Western Australia, including Senior Speech Pathologist, Rural and Remote Resource Therapist and Regional Team Manager.

Charlene is a trained Key Word Sign (formerly Makaton) presenter, certified Hanen It Takes Two to Talk presenter and a member of the Apple Consultants Network. Charlene is also an official Proloquo2Go / Proloquo4Text trainer, and TBoxApps Trainer for Therapy Box.

Charlene has developed strong skills in and a passion for, the area of AAC and assistive technologies. She enjoys presenting workshops and providing consultancy services to support and educate parents, teachers and therapists in the use and application of inclusive technologies.

Charlene has been a full time member of the Professional and Consultancy Services Team at Spectronics.

AGOSCI State Representative for Victoria (2012-present); Key Word Sign Victoria committee member (2012-present).

2 Responses to Switched onto successful access to mobile tablets

  1. Angela Cotter says:

    Hi Charlene,
    A quick question. With IOS7, does the switch accessibility work with all apps or do the apps still have to be identified as switch accessible?

    • Charlene Cullen says:

      Thanks Angela. I know we have also discussed this via email. Switch accessibility with iOS 7 will work with any compatible apps and not all developers of apps have made them this way. Some of them don’t have hotspots for scanning and so you will get point scanning instead of item scanning. It is also good to use some of the specific switch accessible apps because they work on specific skills when you work through switch progression eg. cause effect, 1 switch timed, 2 switch errorless etc.