How do I use a switch with an iPad?

This blog post has been updated. Please see the new entry at

Over the last four weeks, as I have been spending time in schools and giving workshops, one of the most common questions I have had is “How do I use a switch with an iPad?”. Talking with Alex Dunn from Inclusioneers on Twitter, this is also one of the most common questions she gets asked as well!

For this reason, Alex and I decided to collaborate on a Switch Accessible Apps for iPad resource – listing all of the switch accessible Apps that we are aware of and their switch and scanning options. Hopefully this resource will help people out with the information they need about this topic – but since this is one of the most common questions I’m being asked I also thought it was an appropriate topic for my first blog post on my new blog!

Screenshot 2024 03 15 At 8.30.30 pm

Firstly, when I talk about switch access, I specifically mean an external switch which someone can press to make a selection in the App running on an iPad or iPhone (or an App which allows me to use the iPad screen as a switch).  Switches come in all different shapes and sizes. To read more about switches and switch access click here.

Switch access to an iPad is currently limited to specific Apps.  Each App developer must include the code that offers switch access as they develop the App. As things stand, it is not possible for you to use a switch to leave an App or to move between Apps – switch access is in-App only.  Hopefully this is going to change in the near future. Recently, we have seen the development of the iPortal which enables joystick control of the whole iPad using VoiceOver. In addition, the new AssistiveTouch feature in iOS5 looks like it will provide potential for overall alternative access to the iPad at some stage.

But back to the current situation…..

In addition to a switch accessible App, you also need to have an iPad switch interface. Currently, there are three Bluetooth switch interfaces available, and one which plugs into the 30-pin dock connector port on the iPad. Any of the switch interfaces which connect via Bluetooth will reduce the iPad’s battery life and also may ‘lose’ the Bluetooth connection intermittently. Some people find this to be a problem, but others don’t.  The interface which connects via the iPad port has the limitation that you are unable to connect anything else to the port while it is connected – which means that I am unable to charge the iPad or connect it to a VGA monitor while I am using the switch.

RJ Cooper has two different iPad switch interfaces available. The Bluetooth Super Switch connects to the iPad via Bluetooth as the name implies!  The interface itself functions as a switch and there is also a switch port to connect a second switch. The interface is rechargeable from any USB port.

The Air-Turn BT-105 is a small interface with two switch ports – allowing the user to connect one or two switches.  This also connects via Bluetooth and is marketed as the Bluetooth Switch Interface by RJ Cooper and as the SwitchBox by Therapy Box.This interface is also rechargeable from any USB port.

Blue2 90x90

The Blue2 from AbleNet is the third Bluetooth option. This interface has two inbuilt switches (in the form of the two pedals on the front) and also has two switch ports which can replace the two pedals. This interface requires 2AA batteries to run – which works better for some people than recharging – and the batteries have a long run time.

It Iclick E1392464667348 100x100

The it-iClick is the fourth switch interface for the iPad – and is the newest option. I haven’t had the pleasure of using one of these as yet, but I’m looking forward to using it. This interface plugs into the 30-pin dock connector port on the iPad, as you can see from the picture above. Part of the Simply Works range from Inclusive, it is designed to work with up to 6 Simply Works transmitters, such as the it-Switch. This interface takes power from the iPad so it doesn’t require recharging or batteries – although the wireless switches that work with it do.

Now that I’ve covered, the different switch interfaces available, the next question is generally – so which Apps can I use?  And this is where the new resource that Alex and I have put together help. The resource lists all the apps that we are currently aware of that have switch access, details the type of switch access (e.g. cause and effect, 1 switch scanning, 2 switch scanning, visual scanning, auditory scanning) and also lists which switch interface(s) the App is compatible with.

Click here to download the Switch Accessible Apps resource.  You can also go to my website at any stage and download it from the iPads and Apps section. Alex and I would like to keep this updated – so if you find any Apps missing or have any comments please let us know!

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Comments (29)

  1. Reply

    If iPortal can access the whole iPad using ‘Voiceover’ why can’t other switches? I’ve seen someone with iPortal using head switches to control their iPad and iPhone, as well as driving their chair with them!

    Problem is iPortal only works with DX controllers and I can’t afford to buy an whole new chair with a compatible controller, so why couldn’t another switch interface tap into the same thing iPortal is using to access the whole iPad/iPhone?

    • Reply

      It’s a good question – and one I don’t know the answer to. My thought would be that because the type of head switch array mimics a joystick, that this form of access would be limited to joysticks. However, if someone could develop alternative access through a joystick that would be exciting – and open things up to a wider group of people. The closest I’ve seen to a stand alone alternative access option which provides complete iPad access is the Origin Instruments Tornado – but that isn’t commercially available yet.

  2. Jeanette Davies


    Fantastic overview thanks Jane and Alex.
    Can any of those switches be purchased in Australia? Spectronics?

  3. Reply

    This is wonderful-both the post and the amazing list of switch accessible apps are both wonderful contributions. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Pingback: The APPlicator – switch access to MORE apps and music too! | Jane's Blog

  5. Tanya Linden


    Hi Jane,
    I’m in the process of getting a switch interfaced for Rhys to access an iPad with two switches. In your expereince which of the following would you lean more towards – APPlicator – Blue 2 Bluetooth Switch? Tanya

    • Reply

      HI Tanya, the issue is more the very small number of apps with two switch access. I have heard there are more coming though – hopefully soon! Of those two interfaces, I would get the APPlicator because it works with all the current switch accessible apps whereas the Blue2 is only compatible with some. The Applicator also gives you access to music as Linda demonstrated at the conference. 🙂 J

  6. Reply

    The Switch2Scan and the SimplyWorks for iPad from Pretorian Technologies uses Voice Over. So all types of switches can be used. In Oz have a talk with one of the resellers who stock them.

    • Reply

      Thanks Charles. I’ve got an updated version of this blog post in June which discusses that – and I literally just finished reviewing the Switch2Scan and I’ll be blogging about that very soon!

  7. Gretta


    Does anyone know how to get the APPlicator to take pics with the iPad and two switch scan setup.

    • Reply

      HI Gretta,
      The volume up and down arrows on your iPad are the shortcuts for taking a photo. So as long as you have your APPLicator set to Mode H then switch 1 will take a photo. in Mode J both switches will take a photo. At this stage you only have control of the camera shutter with the switches and this interface.


  8. patricia milbrath


    Which single switch would be reliable and reasonably priced to use the ipad camera? Thank You!

    • Reply

      HI Patricia – you would need both a switch interface and a switch. The APPlicator is the simplest one to control the camera shutter – the other switch interfaces that do this require VoiceOver.

  9. Tess Kruser


    Hi Jane,
    Any updated opinions on the best switch interface for single and two-switch access to the iPad? I also have to replace the switch interface for my Mac computer which, next year, will be used to access a second-hand SMART Board I will be getting (unfortunately a portable one). Any suggestions?

    • Reply

      HI Tess, do you want it just for switch accessible apps for for switch access to the whole iOS? If for the whole iOS, I would hold off for a bit as there are new options coming out. Jane

      • Tess Kruser


        Thanks Jane! Any idea what the timeline is for the new options?

  10. Austin Keogh


    Hi Jane
    It was interesting to read your thoughts and comments on switch access to the IPad.Thanks for taking time to do this
    Our daughter has significant motor difficulties but is slowly making more use of a single switch. She also has an IPad 2 and enjoys looking at her collection of photos, videos and movies. Her scanning skills are very basic but it would be great to allow her some control over her IPad or an app within it.
    Can you suggest the most appropriate app and interface that will allow a seventeen year old girl to develop scanning skills and give a sense of having some control of her own IPad?
    Many thanks

    • Reply

      HI Austin,
      At this stage, I would probably wait until iOS7 is out to make a decision. There is going to be switch access added at the iOS level which will (I think) completely change the way things work. iOS7 is due out in our Spring/your Autumn.


  11. Emily


    I was excited to find your post since it was the top response when I googled how do you use a switch with the iPad. Unfortunately I find the blog only speaks about what a switch is and apps that access it. I am looking for how to make the switch work with an iPad. When I plug in the switch it does not recognize that it is there. I go to setting then accessibility and switch on yes to allow switches, still nothing. One more note is that I am using an iPad one, perhaps that is the problem but I don’t know. I would appreciate any helpful information on this matter.

    • Reply

      Hi Lucy, most of them connect via Bluetooth or the dock. So – they should work fine with the first generation iPad. I did just trial two of them and they both worked. Jane

  12. Pingback: The APPlicator – switch access to MORE apps and music too! | Jane Farrall Consulting

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