Zybox for iOS – another VoiceOver switch interface option for the iPad

The Zybox for iOS is a new switch interface from Zygo that uses VoiceOver to control the iOS and VoiceOver compatible apps on your iPad or iPhone. The most significant advantage of this adapter is that it is the first one I have tried that plugs directly into the port on the iPad. This will help in some situations where Bluetooth adapters have proved impractical (e.g. some hearing aid loops seem to interfere with the Bluetooth switch adapters).

The Zybox for iOS gets power from the port on the iPad so it doesn’t ever require charging.  There are two models – the 30 pin model for the iPad 1, 2 and 3rd generation and a Lightning model for the 4th generation iPad and iPad mini. I was unable to use the 30 pin Zybox with my 4th generation iPad with an adapter as the Zybox didn’t get enough power – so it’s important you get the right model for your iDevice at the beginning. If you have the correct model, however, it works seamlessly – just plug it in, turn on VoiceOver and then you are ready to go.

It took me a little while to get used to using the Zybox with 1 switch as timing is all important. A quick press (of normal duration) selects the item currently being highlighted by VoiceOver. A longer press (1 second) starts scanning and a 3 second press activates the Home button. A 5 second press toggles Quick Nav on or off. This requires a lot of counting in your head and in the beginning my counting was often a bit off and I ended up activating the wrong function! However, once I got used to the timing I was easily able to use the interface to move between apps, open an app and navigate around a VoiceOver compatible app.

In two switch mode, the first switch starts the scan pattern, while the second switch has multiple functions.  Again these are timing related – a short press selects the current item highlighted by VoiceOver, a 2 second press selects the home button and a 5 second press once again toggles Quick Nav on or off.

No manual was supplied with the Zybox but the chart on the back of the adapter gives you the details of what each switch does (see above). As you can see, up to 6 switches can be plugged into the Zybox.  Once all 6 switches are plugged in, the interface can be used to provide control to a large number of functions of VoiceOver. However, as I mentioned when reviewing the Tecla Access, there are limited people who would need switch access and are able to use 6 switches so this review will focus on 1 and 2 switch access.

Once I had launched an app, I was unable to get the onscreen keyboard to appear the first time I needed it in either 1 or 2 switch mode. This is consistent with most other interfaces I have tried. Unlike the Switch2Scan there isn’t a button to trigger bringing up the keyboard. In 6 switch mode it is easy to bring the keyboard up – but for a 1 or 2 switch user it is more hit and miss which could end up being very frustrating.

When I plugged in 5 switches, I was able to trigger iBooks mode. This meant that I was able to use just two switches to page back and forth in a book – but I needed to have 5 switches plugged into the interface to get into this mode even if I didn’t intend to use them.  This is a useful feature though as I can set a one switch user up to change pages or a two switch user up to page back and forth by plugging their switches into the right ports and plugging other switches in as “dummies”.

Overall, the interface is extremely easy to setup and use.  Definitely the easiest that I have setup so far. It also offers the ability to navigate around the home screens and VoiceOver compatible apps with one or two switches as long as the user has the ability to time the length of their switch presses. Typing and use of the keyboard doesn’t always go smoothly in 1 or 2 switch mode.  Many more functions are available if the user has access to more than two switches – particularly if the user can use 6 switches.  Most importantly, this interface plugs directly into the iPad port, which eliminates the problems some users have had with Bluetooth interfaces.

Spread the word. Share this post!

Comments (12)

    • Reply

      Thanks Carole. It’s nice to have more options coming for more people and different situations. This would be a good one for a hospital environment too where Bluetooth interfaces are often not allowed.

  1. Reply

    Why do you think all the people making switch access interfaces are offering timing based selection choices when the simplest option for those who can’t manage timing is two switch step scan. It seems that even companies who have provided sensible switch options in the past have lost their way with these devices…

    Is it the iOS that is the problem or the fact not enough AAC/AT/Speech therapists are bothering to actually lobby and point out the flaws and as a result we are seeing a host of moderately useful products enter the arena but nothing proving to be a standout for those who need it most? Zygo had one of the best scanning devices years ago with the Macaw… I can’t understand the departure from that thinking and methodology for this. *sigh*

    • Reply

      HI Gina,

      The scanning access is based on keyboard control of VoiceOver – so developers can only work with what is in VoiceOver. As I understand it – there is no capability for 2 switch or even 1 switch scanning as we know it. Each developer is therefore developing a workaround that seems best to them.

      I know I’ve been lobbying Apple about this – and so have other people – so hopefully we’ll see this changing.



  2. Reply

    Thanks Jane, wasn’t making sense as to why they were pursuing these options. I’ll keep doing my bit too in lobbying for better access options. Do you know if anyone’s cracked splitting audio for public and private audio streams yet? I’ve been asking for that feature for a while… Cheers Gina

    • Reply

      HI Gina,

      I know some apps have a channel feature e.g. GoTalk Now. The auditory scan cues go to one channel and the selections to go another. You then need to use an audio splitter – and you can have one channel going to a pillow speaker or a headset for private auditory scanning and the second channel goes to a loudspeaker. It’s quite a bit of wiring – but it is possible. The app has to enable that feature though and there are limited apps that do it. You might have already known all that and were asking about a more general solution – so my apologies if that’s old information.



  3. Reply

    Hi, Jane and Gina
    First, thanks for the article. Second, thanks for the feedback. Third, if you and any of your AAC/AT/Speech Therapist friends can offer suggestions and ideas for what your clients need from the iOS platform, we are happy to listen. We are quite limited by the iOS, and Apple is less than supportive of our clients needs, but if all of us keep pushing we might get what we need.
    Glad to hear the Macaw had it right so long ago. We’ll look into bringing them back.

    With kind regards, Adam, aka zygoadam

    • Gina @ http://inkyed.wordpress.com


      hey Adam, cheers. Been pondering how to get a workaround happening for the iOS limitations and I wonder if a switch that emulates a double push could work ie if one switch starts the scan then has to be re-pressed to stop the scan then maybe a switch with an additional interface to send two presses (with one physical press) could allow someone to move just one icon along at a time. I am guessing another limitation of the iOS is that once you get to the end of a page set of icons (or selectable elements) you can’t get back to the first icon… I don’t have any idea how to sort that out LOL. If you can make an App emulate the Macaw on the iOS devices that would be fabbo LOL, great for learning about dynamic access, great scanning options, added benefit of morse code access only thing that didn’t work for us on the Macaw was not having a private speaker for auditory scanning – no good in a noisy classroom without it. We basically bought a second hand Dynavox and essentially turned it into a Macaw because we realised we needed private audio options and can’t live with out the infrared/bluetooth sending option these days (but we gave up great scanning settings by going to it 🙁 ) The other option would be some sort of hotspot app where you can activate hotspots on your screen to allow switch access… but I might just be pushing Apple a bit too far there.

      Thanks for your interest and insights.

  4. Reply

    Hi Jane

    Lovely, honest, easy-to-read review! Your evaluations are very fair and reasonable. Your responses to Gina are based on your wealth of knowledge. It is so fabulous that you share so generously. We will certainly be referring people to your BLOG to understand the possibiilities, quirks and limitations of switch access to the iPad!
    Thank you forever

  5. Pingback: Zybox for iOS – another VoiceOver switch interface option for the iPad | OT's with Apps

  6. Nicole G


    Hi Jane,

    Great review. I was just wondering- would people be able to make phone calls using VoiceOver? I can’t imagine why/how they wouldn’t be able to, but I was wondering if you could provide more info about that.



    • Reply

      Hi Nicole,

      I just tested this on my iPhone 5 and was able to make a phone call and have the person on the opposite end hear me without any problems (I had to select speaker phone so I could hear them).

      This isn’t extensive testing but it certainly worked for me.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *