Since I recently posted about an iPad accessory for physical access, I would like to share another one. I want to discuss the AbleNet Bluetooth switch called Blue2, which provides single or dual switch access to the iPad for individuals with physical disabilities. The Blue2 has a switch interface and two switches built in the same device. The built-in switches are accessible by your hands or feet. You can also plug additional switches in the available right and left ports if you wish to use your own.
Since the switch is Bluetooth enabled, no cords are required for use. You connect and use it wirelessly beginning with the iPad settings. Here are the following steps for setup:
- With 2 AA batteries in the device, slide the Power switch to ON
- Press and hold the Reset button on the rear part of the device until the red light cycles
- On the iPad, open the Settings app, tap General then Bluetooth. Turn Bluetooth ON.
- In Bluetooth Settings, choose Dual Pedal to connect it
- On the switch, enter in the four digit code using the Mode buttons (note that digits 6-0 require the Shift button plus the Mode button)
- Press Enter and you will see the red light flash next to the 1/6 mode button
- Finally, press the 5/0 mode button for the Space/Enter function and you will see the red light flash next to it
After the Blue2 switch is connected to the iPad via Bluetooth, you can use it with switch compatible apps. At this moment in time, there are a select number of apps that are compatible, and they are mostly for augmentative communication. The switch compatible apps (that I’m aware of) include the TapSpeak series (Button, Sequence, Choice), Predictable, SoundingBoard (iPhone only), GoTalk Now, Alexicomm AAC, and RJ Cooper apps.
My personal experience with the Blue2 switch has been mostly with the TapSpeak series of apps. At conferences, I have focused on demonstrating the switch with TapSpeak Choice. I used the First page sample board in TapSpeak Choice and began with configuring the in app Settings (the gears button). I selected Scanning Settings and 2 Switch Step scanning. After that, I exited the in app Settings and constructed a message (e.g., “I like dog”) using 2 switch access. In order to construct the message, I had to press the left switch to scan by rows and the right switch to choose a given row or item. Finally, I was able to select the message window to speak the entire message.
There are known limitations at this current time for iPad switch access. First, as I mentioned previously, there are only a select number of switch compatible apps. Second, you cannot use the on-screen keyboard while a switch is connected via Bluetooth. Also, with TapSpeak Choice, you can only utilize one type of access at a time. For example, when 2 Switch step access is enabled, Direct Select touch access is disabled.
Although I discussed Blue2 use with an iPad, it can also be used with switch compatible apps on iPhone and iPod touch. To purchase the Blue2 switch, visit the AbleNet online store. It’s $149.
Disclosure: The author was provided with a complimentary Blue2 switch for demonstration purposes.