Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New in iOS 7: Detailed Look at Switch Control

Apple’s newly released iOS 7 includes many new features and improvements. iOS 7 runs on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Users will notice changes as soon as they boot up their iOS 7 device for the first time. But this release allows a group of users to use iOS for the first time. Just as VoiceOver allowed the blind and visually impaired to access the iPhone, Switch Control now allows switch users to navigate and use their iOS device. Switch users are users who are only able to activate a few large buttons and who don’t have the ability to interact with the complexities of a touch screen. For example, a quadriplegic may be able to activate switches mounted on their wheelchair with their head. Switches come in all different sizes and configurations but they give  users who are unable to interact with the touch screen the ability to control their devices. 

Switch Control for iOS is similar to other switch interfaces, a cursor scans around the screen and when a switch is activated the user is given options to interact with that object or button. For example, a cursor will scroll through all the app icons on your home screen and when the switch is activated it will open the selected app.

Click read more to learn below to learn more about Switch Control on iOS 7.

Example of a switch
Switch Control can be used with external switches connected to the device via Bluetooth. Switch control can also use the front facing FaceTime camera to recognize a user’s head movements. A third option allows the entire touch display of your iOS device to be used as a switch. Once you have a switch you can choose its action. A switch can control scanning by controlling the cursor or can be used to control system functions such as activating Siri, notification center, or the app switcher.


Switch Control is extremely customizable to fit the needs of many different users. The settings can be accessed by going to Settings > General > Accessibility > Switch Control. The speed at which the cursor moves can be change for faster navigation or easier use. The cursor can also be set to pause on the first item. There are also switch stabilization settings to increase or decrease hold duration and also to ignore repeat. Switch Control can also speech items to the user as the cursor highlights items. The cursor size and color is also customizable. Similar to Assistive Touch Switch Control allows saved gestures to be saved and activated later.

Using Switch Control

A cursor highlights the elements or groups of elements on the screen. Activating the switch selects the group and then pressing the switch again activates an element. This process allows users to select apps from the home screen, keys on the keyboard, and other buttons. A secondary menu can also be activated with options specific to that element. The menu includes options to tap the element, scroll, activate saved and pre-set gestures, activate device functions such as volume, and shortcuts to change Switch Control settings. On elements such as volume sliders you are also given the option to decrement and increment. The gesture menu gives you the option to flick, pan, pinch, tap and hold, drag, drag and hold, double tap, freehand, and access saved gestures. Amazingly, these gestures can be precisely controlled through one switch by following on screen options. For scrollable list you can activate the “scroll” submenu.

Switch Control Compatibility with Third Party Apps

As with most accessibility features, support for Switch Control with third party apps unpredictable. Luckily, VoiceOver has laid the ground work for Switch Control. As I understand, Switch Control and VoiceOver use the same accessibility elements. This an app that works with VoiceOver will work with Switch Control and vice versa. This makes app developer’s jobs much easier.


Switch Control is one of many great new accessibility features in iOS 7. Switch Control will allow a whole new group of people (switch users) access to the iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. Like all of Apple’s accessibility features Switch Control is available on all iOS 7 devices and works out-of-the-box.


  1. Why wont the add new switch activate?

  2. Why can't I use camera mode!? It's faded and it won't let me activate it in add new switch. I have an iphone phone.

  3. Wow, I have 90% no idea what switch control is after reading this. And my ipad is bugging out for no apparent reason trying to switch control.