Use Switch Control to interact with your Mac

Switch Control is an assistive technology that helps you enter text, choose menus, move your pointer, and more – all by simply clicking a switch. You can use a keyboard key, mouse or trackpad button, joystick, or an adaptive device as one or more switches.

Switch Control scans your screen until you click a switch. This single click selects an item, or performs an action.

Enable Switch Control

Here's how you enable Switch Control:

  1. From the Apple menu, choose System Preferences.
  2. Click Accessibility, then select Switch Control from the list of accessibility options.
  3. Click the General tab.
  4. Select the option to Enable Switch Control.

After enabling Switch Control, the Home row window appears:

home row

Press a switch (like your mouse button or the space bar) to cycle through items on the home row. Press the switch a second time to select the highlighted item. 

Set up your switches

Use Switch Control preferences in the Accessibility pane of System Preferences to set up switches that perform an action when pressed. You can use a mouse, keyboard or dedicated switch hardware connected using USB or Bluetooth to act as a switch. You can also change existing switch actions.

  • By default, the spacebar is used as a switch when Switch Control is enabled.
  • To 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 the script or an app.
  • To remove a switch: Select a switch in the list, then click the Remove button (-).
  • To change the behavior of an existing switch, select a switch in the list, click the Action pop-up menu (looks like a gear), then change the name or action. To use a different switch for the action, click Reassign.

Scan and select items

Scan items

When you press the Select Item switch, Switch Control begins stepping through a panel, group, or user interface. Switch control highlights each item or group as it scans. The scan pauses when you select an item, unless you've set the option to keep scanning after a selection is set.

If you turned auto scanning off, press the Move To Next Item switch to advance the scan. Switch Control repeats (or loops) a scan as set in the Navigation pane.

Select an item

When an item is highlighted, press the Select Item switch. If the selected item is a group (and you didn’t set the option to resume scanning after a selection), press the switch to scan the group. Then, press the switch to select an item in the group.

To exit a group, press the switch when the group is highlighted or when you hear "step out."

If you need to use the pointer to click an item that isn't part of an app's interface, you can use Pointer mode to scan the screen and click an item.

  1. Click to begin scanning horizontally.
  2. When the range finder highlights the area you want to click, click your switch again.
  3. Click another time to precisely refine your horizontal position. 
  4. The next click starts the vertical range finder scan.
  5. Click again to refine your vertical position. 
  6. Click your switch a final time to click the element on the screen that is currently under the blue crosshair you created on the screen.

Use panels

Set panel options

In a panel, click the Select Item switch when the Panel Options icon (looks like a gear) in the top-right corner is highlighted. Then, click 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 row

In a panel, click the Select Item switch when the Home icon in the top-right corner is highlighted. In the interface, press the switch when the Home row is highlighted.

Use the home row

Keyboard
Type text in a document or field by scanning the keyboard in the panel, opening a group of keys, and then selecting a key. The first group contains suggested words based on the first keys you press. This lets you save typing time by selecting a suggested word. Other keyboards may be available in the Custom panel.

 

Pointer
To move the pointer to an area of the screen, select Move. You'll see a vertical block start 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. Press the switch again to either stop the blue line, or substantially slow it down before you press the switch again to stop it (based on the setting of Gliding Cursor Precision in the Navigation pane). When you do the same horizontally, you'll see the pointer move to the intersection of the two blue lines.

 

App
Scan items and groups in the active window of the current app.

 

Dock
Immediately start scanning just the items in the Dock.

 

Menu Bar
Scan the menu bar group, then the menu extras group.

 

System
Control the volume or display brightness of your Mac, and control media playback.

 

Custom
You can create custom panels in System Preferences > Accessibility > Switch Control > Open Panel Editor. Any custom panels you create appear here. 

 

Location
Use this option to reposition the Switch Control Home row on the screen.

Learn more

To customize Switch Control, select the Navigation or Timing panes in Switch Control Accessibility preferences. You can learn more about Switch Control and the Switch Control Panel Editor from the Apple Accessibility website and from the built-in help included with OS X. Click the help button   in the Accessibility pane of System Preferences or search for Switch Control from the Help menu for more information.

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