Switch control of iPad 2 using Adafruit Bluefruit Micro

Accessing iPhone or iPad would seem to be impossible for someone with a severe disability however iOS has a built-in feature called switch control that allows you to use pushbuttons to scan items on the touchscreen and select them. Bluetooth enabled switches for this purpose can cost $500 or more but I built one for well under $50 using parts from Adafruit.com. Here is a demo with me posting on my Facebook page using just three pushbuttons and the Adafruit Bluefruit Micro development board. When I get my new wheelchair I may also be able to use this feature using the joystick that I will use for driving the wheelchair. However after playing around with the pushbuttons I think I like them better.

4 thoughts on “Switch control of iPad 2 using Adafruit Bluefruit Micro

    • There was a dictation icon on the pop-up keyboard. I had not tried it until just now but I’m in kind of a noisy environment right now so it wasn’t much of a test. I’m presuming it uses the same speech engine as Siri so it would be as accurate as that. I don’t think that the dictation feature is necessarily part of switch control accessibility. I think it’s a feature of the standard iOS 9 keyboard. One of the things I need to investigate is if there are alternative keyboards available. The standard QWERTY layout is not very optimized when it comes to scanning with switches. Back in the 1980s when I created my VersaScan software back in the 8-bit CP/M days, I organized my virtual keyboard to optimize it for scanning based on the frequency of letters. I also had some multi-letter combinations such as “ed” “ing” “tion” and so on. I actually basted on the multi-letter combinations used by braille. I figured that the people who invented braille would know which multi-letter combinations were most frequently used. Of course with just an eight bit computer I didn’t have word prediction or self correction features that are pretty much standard today.

  1. Your assistive technology work is pretty amazing! I’ve recently started tinkering with things as a degenerative condition is starting to catch up with me, and I’d value your input on installing a presentation remote in a cane. As I do more public speaking, I get frustrated having my hands full with my cane in my dominant and my presentation remote in my off hand. 1. I can’t always rely on my left hand to hit the right buttons at the right times. and 2. if/when i have to switch the cane to my left hand to assist someone, it’s awkward trying to juggle both the cane and the remote.

    I’d be grateful for your advice on this project.

    • Not the author, but a two or three button remote would be pretty easy if it’s just next slide / last slide and like enter or something. Have you reached out to the AT makers group on Facebook? It would appear the author is active there as well, and this would put the task of assisting you on a group instead of just one person, much more likely to get the results you’re looking for 🙂

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