iPad accessories for disabled users
With the continuing popularity of Apple and their innovative products within the disability community, there is an ongoing need for assistive technology to compliment them. iOS devices, particularly iPads, are very popular within the disabled community – and with good reason. Not may people realise though that there are a number of accessories produced for the iPad, specifically for disabled users. These can involve something as simple as a Bluetooth switch or a joystick.
But how can a switch control a complex tablet like the iPad? Well, it is possible to do everything you need to do on an iPad via one or more switches, although inevitably it does take a little longer.
Typically you can:
- Navigate and access applications
- Type messages using the onscreen keyboard
- Take photos and record videos
- Pause/play/scan music
Here are some of the available appliances specifically designed for the iPad and iPhone.
Switches & Switch Accessories
Firstly, we have the iSwitch. It doesn’t look like it can do much does it? But this small, brightly coloured switch (available in red, green, yellow or blue) allows you to navigate and click without having to touch the screen. Within the iOS General | Accessibility | Switch Control features you can define one or more switches and each switch can carry out 2 functions; e.g. a Tap and a Long press. It connects with the iPad (or other Apple devices) via Bluetooth and can perform up to 24 pre-programmed functions although the most commonly used functions are the Tap and Home button. If you have two switches you could perhaps use the second switch for Next Item and Previous Item. If listening to music is your main thing, you can define the switch actions accordingly.
In addition you have the option to plug in two additional wired switches into its sockets at the back of the switch.
For more details on the iSwitch click here.
Blue2 Bluetooth Switch
This is another switch that gives you the ability to have control of the full switch access provided by your Apple device with its two built in switches. It connects to your device via Bluetooth (as you may have guessed from the name). Using its 3 pre-programmed modes you can control your iPad, iPod touch or iPhone but you are not limited to this. The Blue2 Bluetooth Switch lets you record up to 3 custom key sequences, expanding possibilities by giving you that advanced control of your device.
For this switch too there is an option to plug in two additional switches into its sockets at the back.
If you’re wondering how to connect this switch via Bluetooth, feel free to watch a useful video on how to do so here.
Using Wired Switches
APPlicator for iPad
If you’re looking to control your iPad with a wired switch then there is the APPlicator for iPad. This controller allows up to 4 wired switches to be connected. Each switch can then be programmed. You have the choice of assigning a function to any switch from a wide range of 24 mouse/keyboard commands. When using the APPlicator, you can carry out such an extensive range of tasks whether it’s something like accessing the virtual keyboard or scanning through songs – all without touching the iPad. To see this device in action, check out this video by clicking here.
SimplyWorks for iPad
Similarly to the APPlicator, the SimplyWorks for iPad is an interface that allows switches to pair up with an iPad. The main difference though is that it also allows up to six SimplyWorks wireless transmitters to connect. This device is essential if you want to connect the SimplyWorks Joystick or SimplyWorks Trackball or one of the Wireless Switch 125s to your iPad. This device allows for completely wireless iPad access including Apps, Music, Media, iBooks, Internet, Email and much more. Connecting to the iPad via bluetooth, the SimplyWorks for iPad possesses an integral button to deploy or hide the on-screen keyboard, depending on the task you’re doing.
Joysticks and Trackballs
Joysticks and trackballs for iPads work in a different way to the mouse action of a Windows, Android or even Applemac computer. iPads are not designed for interaction with a mouse and therefore these devices work effectively as multi-switch devices that allow you to move between icons or within Apps in scanning mode.
The J-Pad Joystick, a highly functional joystick for the iPad. As with the iSwitch, it connects wirelessly via Bluetooth. With two touch sensitive buttons and a highly functional thumb knob, this device gives you the ability to access your apps, music and photography. It fully supports Siri and also has the ability to support up to two wired switches. This easy-to-use joystick can work on all types of iPad and its integral rechargeable battery lasts for 30 hours between charges. For further details on how it works, see the video clip below.
The SimplyWorks Joystick is designed to work with the SimplyWorks for iPad controller. It looks like a conventional joystick but when used with the iPad, works more as a multi-switch device. For those users with fine motor control issues, it allows more accurate cursor navigation. Its rugged design and low profile make it comfortable to use and the extended base doubles up as a hand rest. The bright colours of the three buttons make them easy to distinguish and make navigation of Apps more straightforward. To see a video of the joystick connected to an iPad and using several Apps, click here.
The SimplyWorks Trackball works in a very similar way to the SimplyWorks Joystick but it has a large smooth ball rather than a joystick action. This robust device can be used as either a desktop or hand-held unit and works with the SimplyWorks receiver. Similarly this trackball (and also the joystick version) can be used with a computer or for toy control.
Mounting Solutions and Supports
Big Grips Frame and Stand
The Big Grips Slim Frame is made from a hard foam which protects either the iPad Air or Air 2, without blocking any of the screen or ports. Although the Big Grips Slim Frame is lightweight, there shouldn’t be too many concerns about dropping the iPad when it has its case on. It fits smoothly into the Big Grips Stand, allowing you to use your iPad without even having to hold it. This can be especially useful when you are controlling the iPad with switches as there would be one less thing occupying your hands. The Big Grips Slim Frame and Stand can be purchased together or you can simply purchase the Big Grips Slim Frame by itself.
When it comes to supporting your iPad a simple yet effective solution is the iSlope. Holding the iPad in position with its non-slip surface, it certainly won’t fall once you’ve placed it there. It also has an angled design which can help improve posture, and help prevent what is now called “tech-neck“.
Quick Release Wheelchair Mounting for iPad
For wheelchair users and people who need to clamp their iPads to their wheelchair or table we would recommend the sturdy Quick Release Wheelchair Mounting fir iPad Air or Air 2. It clamps firmly onto your wheelchair or table/desk and then it can be adjusted to match your individual preferences. The levels of adjustment you have depend on the amount of sections you have, with one tube being the least and three the most.
All in all, these devices can extremely improve the quality of life for those with disabilities by allowing them to access the technology in such an easy way. We have all of these products, along with other assistive technology devices, available in our online shop here.
As you will imagine, whilst there are lots of accessibility products available for the iPad and iPhone, in the US where the market is much larger, there is considerably more. The main source in the US for all accessibility products related to the iPad is R J Cooper. We can’t guarantee that we can get everything they sell there, but if there is something that you need and feel would be suitable from their site, please get in touch with us and we will try to get it for you.