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iOS: Switch Control helps you navigate your iOS device

Learn about the Switch Control accessibility feature in iOS.

Switch Control lets you control your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch using a single switch, or multiple switches. Use any of several methods to perform actions such as selecting, tapping, dragging, typing, and even freehand drawing. The basic technique is to use a switch to select an item or location on the screen, and then use the same (or a different) switch to choose an action to perform on that item or location. Three basic methods are:

  • Item scanning (default): Highlights items on the screen until you select one.
  • Point scanning: Use scanning crosshairs to pick a screen location.
  • Manual selection: Move from item to item on demand (needs multiple switches).

Whichever method you use, when you select a single item (rather than a group), a menu appears so you can choose how to act on the selected item (tap, drag, or pinch, for example).

You can adjust the behavior of Switch Control in a variety of ways to suit your needs and style.

Add a switch and turn on Switch Control

You can use any of these as a switch:

  • An external adaptive switch: Choose from a variety of popular Bluetooth switches.
  • The device screen: Tap on the screen to trigger the switch.
  • The FaceTime camera: Move your head to trigger the switch. You can use the camera as two switches: One when you move your head to the left, and the other when you move your head to the right.

Add a switch and choose its action: Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Switch Control > Switches.

Turn on Switch Control: Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Switch Control.

Turn off Switch Control: Use any scanning method to select Settings > General > Accessibility > Switch Control.

Bail out! Triple-click the Home button at any time to exit from Switch Control.

Basic techniques

These techniques work whether you're scanning by item or by point.

Select an item: While the item is highlighted, trigger the switch you've set up as your Select Item switch. If you are using a single switch, it is your Select Item switch by default.

Display available actions: Select an item using the Select Item switch. Available actions appear in the control menu that appears.

Tap an item: Use your selection method to choose Tap from the control menu that appears when you select the item. Or turn on Settings > General > Accessibility > Switch Control > Auto Tap, then just select an item and do nothing for the Auto Tap interval (which is 0.75 seconds if you haven't adjusted it). Or set up a switch specifically to perform the tap gesture at Settings > General > Accessibility > Switch Control > Switches.

Perform other gestures or actions: Select the gesture or action from the control menu that appears when you select the item. If you have Auto Tap turned on, trigger your switch within the Auto Tap interval, then select the gesture. If more than one page of actions is available, tap the dots at the bottom of the menu to go to another page.

Dismiss the control menu. Tap while all the icons in the menu are dimmed.

Scroll the screen to see more items: Select any item on the screen, then choose Scroll from the control menu.

Perform a hardware action: Select any item, then select Device from the menu that appears. You can use the menu to mimic these actions:

  • Click the Home button
  • Double-click the Home button for multitasking
  • Open Notification Center or Control Center
  • Press the Sleep/Wake button to lock the device
  • Rotate the device
  • Flip the Mute switch
  • Press the volume buttons
  • Hold down the Home button to open Siri
  • Triple-click the Home button
  • Shake the device
  • Press Home and Sleep/Wake buttons simultaneously to take a screenshot

Item scanning

Item scanning alternately highlights each item or group of items on the screen until you trigger your Select Item switch to select the highlighted item. When you select a group, highlighting continues with the items in the group. Scanning stops and a menu of actions appears when you select a unique item. Item scanning is the default when you first turn on Switch Control.

Select an item or enter a group:. Watch (or listen) as items are highlighted. When the item you want to control (or the group containing the item) is highlighted, trigger your Select Item switch. Work your way down in the hierarchy of items until you select the item you want to control.

Back out of a group: Trigger your switch when the the dashed highlight around the group or item appears.

Tap the selected item: Choose Tap from the menu that appears when you select the item. Or, if you have Auto Tap enabled, just do nothing for three-quarters of a second.

Perform another action: Select any item, then select the action from the menu that appears. If you have Auto Tap turned on, act on your switch within three quarters of a second of selecting an item to display a menu of available gestures.

Point scanning

Point scanning lets you select an item on the screen by pinpointing it with scanning crosshairs.

Turn on point scanning: Use item scanning to select Settings from the menu, then select Item Mode to change it to Point Mode. The vertical crosshairs appear when you close the menu.

Return to item scanning: Select Settings from the control menu, then select Point Mode to change it to Item Mode.

Manual Selection

If you use multiple switches, you can set up each switch to perform a specific action and customize your item-selection method. For example, instead of automatically scanning screen items, you can set up switches to move to the next or previous item on demand. Leave auto-scan on when using a single switch.

Settings and adjustments

To adjust basic settings, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Switch Control. Here, you can:

  • Add switches
  • Turn off auto scanning (if you've added a Step to Next Item switch)
  • Adjust the scanning interval
  • Set scanning to pause on the first item in a group
  • Choose how many times to cycle through the screen before hiding Switch Control
  • Turn Auto Tap on or off and set the interval for performing a second switch action to show the control menu
  • Set whether a movement action is repeated when you hold down a switch, and how long to wait before repeating
  • Set whether and how long you need to hold a switch down before it is accepted as a switch action
  • Have Switch Control ignore accidental repeated switch triggers
  • Adjust point scanning speed
  • Turn on sound effects or speech
  • Select the items you want to see in the menu
  • Make the selection cursor larger or a different color
  • Set whether items should be grouped while item scanning
  • Save custom gestures that you can choose from the Action portion of the control menu

To fine tune Switch Control, Choose Settings from the control menu. Here, you can:

  • Adjust scanning speed
  • Change the location of the control menu
  • Switch between item scan mode and point scan mode
  • Choose whether point scan mode displays crosshairs or a grid
  • Reverse the scanning direction
  • Turn on or off sound or speech accompaniment
  • Turn off groups to scan items one at a time
Last Modified: Jan 3, 2014
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  • Last Modified: Jan 3, 2014
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