VoiceOver Switch Interfaces, Bluetooth Keyboards, Braille Keyboards, And/or Gestures
Bruce McClanahan, Assistive Technology Specialist
Washington State School for the Blind
The Switch2Scan device from Inclusive Technologies is an excellent VoiceOver enabled switch. This device is made by Pretorian Technologies and sold by Inclusive Technologies in the United States. https://www.inclusivetlc.com/switch2scan
This device also has a mode that will work with switch adapted apps and will send a space for switch 1, enter for switch 2, ~1 for switch 3, and ~3 for switch 4.
The iPad apps listed below work very well with VoiceOver. These apps can easily be controlled with VoiceOver gestures, a Bluetooth keyboard, Braille keyboard, or with a VoiceOver enabled switch interface.
The primary criteria when selecting any switch interface for totally blind students with significant additional impairments is that in addition to being a “standard” switch interface it should also have a VoiceOver capability.
Controls that are not labeled correctly for VoiceOver are listed on the chart below. Vendors have been contacted about this.
Tactualizing the iPad
An excellent way to access Book Creator, the Grasshopper books and some other apps with totally blind students is to place tactual items on the iPad screen. We are using the Feel and Peel Stickers from the American Printing House for the Blind to tactualize the iPad, Catalog Number 1-08843-00. We have found that the iPad does not activate well if we use tactual items of greater thickness than the Feel and Peel stickers. The locations of the items to tactualize on the iPad screen frequently change with different apps, so one way tactualize the iPad is to have multiple easily removable overlays available. We use removable iPad overlays from William Sonoma, yes, the cooking company.
http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/williams-sonoma-smart-tools-screen-shields/ For example, the Grasshopper books work very well with VoiceOver and it is only necessary to tactualize the left and right arrow keys. But the Book Creator books require a different tactual overlay, as well as Wheels on the Bus, etc.
Apps for Totally Blind Students Using a VoiceOver Switch Interface
The apps listed below are also accessible with a Bluetooth keyboard, Braille keyboard, and/or Gestures.
Customizable keyboard editor and adaptive notepad. Incredible program.
Full-featured, customizable AAC app for the iPad, works with built-in switch interface or VoiceOver switches
I Hear Ewe
Claireware Software: http://claireware.com/
I Hear Ewe teaches preschool children animal names and their sounds. When a specific animal icon is selected the name of the animal is announced and a recording of the animal’s natural sound is played.
I Like Books
37 Accessible Books in one app
Also many free single books are available from Grasshopper on the App store. This is a good app to tactualize, both the left and right buttons, as are all of the Grasshopper books.
List recorder is an easy to use powerful audio recorder that is designed for visually impaired users. Lists are very easy to make in this app.
Good app to tactualize.
This app is designed to help primary school children practice mathematics. It is designed for both sighted children or low vision or blind children. Awesome educational app.
Old Mac HD
Duck Duck Moose
Old MacDonald Had A Farm
This app is accessible with VoiceOver, but only a few of the left and right arrow buttons are labeled, the rest just say button or are labeled incorrectly. This is a good app to tactualize.
Excellent communication app to promote language development and communication skills. Supports VoiceOver.
Read2Go is an accessible e-book reader that provides easy access to all of your BookShare books.
SoundingBoard is a free augmentative and alternative communication app. Boards can be created with up to 20 message locations, these boards can be linked. Boards can also be purchased.
Accessible iPad story, useable, but some of the buttons are not labeled, for example the left and right arrow buttons just say button. Has been reported to the company.
Voice Dream Reader
Voice Dream Reader
Universal access e-reader app. Able to read PDF, ePub, DAISY, Word, Text files, and more.
What’s That Sound: Learning to Listen to and Identify Sounds
Different Road to Learning
This interactive game develops auditory discrimination and processing skills. Students match objects and their associated sounds.
Switch Adapted Apps Accessible for Totally Blind Students
Jane Farrall maintains an excellent list of switch adapted apps that work with children with usable vision. http://www.janefarrall.com/
The following switch apps work with totally blind children:
Breath Music is an app for GroovTube Breath Controller device, but this app is also completely accessible for totally blind students using switches
RadSounds Cause/Effect App
R. J. Cooper
Cause/effect music program for special needs learners. The playlist can be customized or new music can be sung into your iPad. Two switch access, sends ~1 and ~3
Developmental touch skills app, made for individuals with complex needs
Beginning Writing Activities Using a VoiceOver Switch Interface
Download the Abilipad app from the App store, this app is made by http://appytherapy.com . Custom keyboards can be easily created with Abilipad. The custom keyboards that are created work very well with a VoiceOver switch interface.
The Abilipad website has many excellent suggestions on using this product. Depending upon the needs of the student you may want to start by creating easy writing keyboards. A sentence beginning and three sentences endings would be a good example. For example the sentence beginning could be “I like,” and the three sentences endings could be “tomato soup, chicken and noodle soup, or bean soup.”
Next you may want to teach the student to write his or her first name. Perhaps by creating an Abilipad keyboard where the letters are in order and then another keyboard with the letters of the student’s name are scrambled. Again there are examples of this on the Abilipad website.
Next step: The student could progress to writing basic words using a full-featured on-screen keyboard with a VoiceOver switch interface. Depending upon the needs of the student an ABC keyboard, QWERTY keyboard, or a Frequency keyboard might be used. If the student has physical impairments a Frequency keyboard would be a good option.
Elementary iPad Apps
Talking Typer from APH for iOS is still in Beta, I can’t wait for it to be released.
Several of the Alligator apps are excellent when used with a Braille display; A+ Spelling Test, Food Words, Fry Words, and Phonics Genius. The A+ Spelling Test from Alligator Apps can be used to create a spelling quiz for your student. Students can take this test using VoiceOver switches, a Bluetooth keyboard, or a Braille display.
Math Robot is an excellent, completely accessible math program from APH.
Customizable keyboard editor and adaptive notepad. Incredible program.
Very useful for low vision users, with a considerable amount “fiddling” can be made to work with VoiceOver switches for totally blind students requiring an alphabetical on-screen keyboard.
Math program accessible for blind and low vision students
This product is still Beta, but I am eagerly awaiting it.
Switch Progression Skills for Totally Blind Students with Significant Additional Impairments
There are only a very few switch apps accessible for totally blind students, so it can be difficult to develop a switch progression plan. Accessible software for totally blind students with significant additional impairments is the most underserved population. And often when software says that it is for the visually impaired this only means low vision students. Use a VoiceOver Switch, such as Switch2Scan. Or select a different VoiceOver enabled interface if more VoiceOver switch interfaces are developed!
Cause and Effect: Single Switch
RadSounds, SoundBox, BreathMusic
Using Three Switches to Navigate Basic Stories
Grasshopper Books, Bus HD, Old Mac HD, Aesop for Children, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, The Tortoise and the Hare, Big Bug and Little Bug, Book Creator books, and selected Tar Heel Reader books, accessed with Safari and VoiceOver
Using Three Switches to Navigate and Select Items
I Hear Ewe, Math Melodies, What’s That Sound, SoundTouch 1, and SoundTouch 2
Using Three Switches to Navigate AAC apps
Go Talk NOW, SoundingBoard, Proloquo2Go, other AAC apps if they are VoiceOver compatible
Using Four Switches to Access Classroom Work (Switch 4 activates the Home button)
Use Abilipad to develop Beginning Language Activities. One example would be a sentence starter and three sentence endings. Example: I like - tomato soup, chicken noodle soup, or bean soup.
Using Three Switches to Write a Student’s Name
Use Abilipad to write a student’s name. Develop a custom keyboard for this in Abilipad. You may wish to present the letters of the students name in order and another keyboard where they are randomized.
Using Three Switches to Write Basic Words
Download a keyboard in Abilipad that meets for your student’s needs or develop a keyboard in Abilipad specific for your student. You may want to use an ABC keyboard, a QWERTY keyboard, or a Frequency keyboard.