macOS High Sierra

Use Switch Control

With Switch Control, you can use an adaptive device (such as a switch or joystick) to enter text, interact with items on the screen, and control your Mac. You use controls in the Switch Control Home Panel to scan a panel or the user interface until you use a switch to select an item or perform an action.

Use the Switch Control Home Panel to emulate hardware and access the user interface. Custom panels may be available for specialized uses.

Enable Switch Control

  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Accessibility, then click Switch Control.

    Open the Switch Control pane for me

  2. Click General, then select Enable Switch Control.

    The Switch Control Home Panel is shown on your desktop.

Use the Home Panel

  • Keyboard: Shows the default keyboard. Type text in a document or field by scanning the keyboard in the panel, opening a group of keys, then selecting a key. Keep an eye on the group across the bottom of the keyboard: it contains suggested words, based on the keys pressed so far; you may save typing time by selecting a suggested word.

  • Pointer: Provides buttons to move and click the pointer. To move the pointer to an area of the screen, select Move; to automatically click the pointer when you get to an area of the screen, select “Move & click.”

    For both of those options, a vertical block starts to glide across the screen. When you press the Select Item switch, the block stops and a vertical blue line starts to glide across the block. When you press the switch again, the blue line either stops or (if the pointer precision is set to High in the Navigation pane of Switch Control preferences) substantially slows down before you press the switch again to stop it.

    When you do the same horizontally, the pointer moves to the intersection of the two blue lines; if you used “Move & click,” the item located at the intersection of the two blue lines is selected.

  • App: Scans items and groups in the active window of the current app.

  • Dock: Scans the items in the Dock.

  • Menu Bar: Scans the menu bar group, then the menu extras group.

  • System: Provides buttons to control the volume or display brightness of your Mac and control media playback.

    If your Mac has a Touch Bar, System includes Toggle Touch Bar, which shows the Touch Bar across the bottom of the screen. This allows you to use Switch Control to point to and select items in the Touch Bar. For more information about the Touch Bar, see the Apple Support article How to use the Touch Bar on your MacBook Pro.

  • Custom: Shows custom panels that are available. You can create custom panels (using the Panel Editor) to streamline common tasks and actions for apps.

  • Location: Provides buttons to reposition the Switch Control Home Panel on the screen.

  • Devices: Shows available Apple devices—such as iOS devices or Apple TV—that you can control using Switch Control on your Mac without having to pair your switch to the other device. Your Mac, iOS devices, and Apple TV must be on the same Wi-Fi network, and you must be signed in to iCloud on the devices.

Scan and select items

  • Scan items with auto scanning: Press the Select Item switch to start auto scanning. For groups and user interface items, Switch Control highlights each item or group as it scans. For panels, it either highlights each button or group, or sets of buttons in an overlapping sequence, depending on how the panel was designed.

    If you select an item, the scan pauses (unless the option to keep scanning after a selection is on in the Switches pane). To resume the scan, press the switch. Switch Control repeats (or loops) a scan, as set in the Navigation pane.

  • Scan items without auto scanning: If you turned auto scanning off, press the Move To Next Item switch.

  • Select an item: When an item is highlighted, press the Select Item switch. If the selected item is a group or set (and the option to resume scanning after a selection isn’t on), press the switch to scan the group or set, then press the switch again to select an item. To exit a group or set, press the switch when it’s highlighted (or you hear “step out,” if the option to have Switch Control speak while navigating is on).

Use panels

  • Set panel options: In a panel, press the Select Item switch when the Panel Options icon in the top-right corner is highlighted. Then press the switch again when the option you want to set is highlighted. You can decrease or increase the size of the panel, and increase or decrease its transparency.

  • Return to the Home Panel: In a panel, press the Select Item switch when the Home icon in the top-right corner is highlighted. In user interface, press the switch when the Home Panel is highlighted.

Control the pointer

Panels can provide different ways to move and control the pointer. For example, the Pointer panel in the Home Panel offers Move and “Move & click.” The following methods may also be used in panels:

  • Glide: The action is the same as Move in the Pointer panel.

  • Rotate: When you press the Select Item switch, a sector (shaped like a pie slice) starts to rotate around the screen from the current location of the pointer, or around the frontmost window from the center of the window (depending on how Boundary was set in the Panel Editor). When you press the switch a second time, the sector stops on the screen, then a blue line starts to glide across the sector. When you press the switch a third time, the blue line stops, then the pointer starts to glide along the blue line. Press the switch again to stop the pointer on the blue line.

    If the pointer precision is set to High in the Navigation pane of Switch Control preferences, intermediate stages are added to provide greater control of the pointer. For example, the third time you press the Select Item switch, the blue line is substantially slowed as it glides across the sector. Press the switch a fourth time to start the pointer gliding along the blue line. Press it a fifth time to substantially slow the pointer. Press the switch a sixth time to stop the pointer on the blue line.

  • Directional Move: When you press the Select Item switch, the pointer moves from its current location across the screen in one direction (for example, left, down, or diagonally), or repeats or reverses the last directional move it made. If you press the switch, the pointer stops moving; if you don’t, the pointer continues until it reaches a boundary, where it bounces back in the other direction or stops (depending on the setting of “When pointer reaches edge” in the Navigation pane of Switch Control preferences).

Set up switches

In the Switches pane of Switch Control Accessibility preferences, you can set up one or more adaptive switches to perform an action when pressed, and assign an existing switch a different action.

  • Add a switch: Click the Add button , then press your adaptive switch. Enter a name, then select an action, such as Stop Scanning. To have the switch run a script or open an app, click Custom, then select a script or an app.

  • Remove a switch: Select a switch in the list, then click the Remove button .

  • Change a switch: Select a switch in the list, click the Action pop-up menu , then change the name or action. To use a different switch for the action, click Reassign.

To customize Switch Control, use the Switches and Navigation panes in Switch Control preferences. To learn about the options, click the Help button in a pane. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Accessibility, then click Switch Control.

Open the Switch Control pane for me