Category: iOS Switch Access

Label applied to accessing Apple’s iOS computer operating system using a switch.

Switch accessible telephone calls

This blog is about making switch accessible telephone calls using an APPlicator connected to an iPhone 6 with the help of Siri and a Smoothie switch.

The APPlicator from Pretorian Technologies is a really useful piece of kit that connects with Apple’s iOS devices.  The connection is wireless using Bluetooth and works very well with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. On the other side the APPlicator has sockets for four push-button switches like the Smoothie switches.

Here’s a link to a blog a comprehensive blog about the iSwitch – think of the iSwitch as an APPlicator with a built in switch.

Making the connections

Before making a switch accessible telephone call there are three things you need to connect together:

  1. the APPlicator
  2. the iPhone and
  3. the push-button switch.

IPhone 6 – here I’m going to assume you have already stored a series of telephone numbers in your ‘Contacts’ app. If not then you will need to do that first. APPlicator – make a Bluetooth connection with the iPhone. Follow these steps:

Making a Bluetooth Connection

  • Go to the Bluetooth menu on your iPhone (Settings then Bluetooth). Make sure
    Image showing the APPlicator Bluetooth connection to the iPhone
    APPlicator Bluetooth connection to the iPhone

    Bluetooth is turned on; if not slide the iOS slider to the right.

  • Turn on the APPlicator by pressing either ‘channel or ’mode’ switch once.
  • After a few seconds the APPlicator should appear as a ‘discoverable’ device listed as something like ‘Pretorian-V49.3-ABC1. Tap on the name and the pairing process will begin.
  • The APPlicator is ready to use when you see ‘Connected’ in the iPhone’s Bluetooth device list.

Setting the iOS command

  • Press the ‘CHAN’ button on the APPlicator to select the channel you will use to connect the switch to. Let’s say ‘1’.
  • Press the ‘MODE’ button repeatedly until the the letter ‘T’ appears in the red window.
Image showing the APPlicator and iPhone being used to make a switch accessible telephone call.
Make switch accessible calls with APPlicator and the iPhone

Letter ‘T’ represents an iOS instruction that has been programmed into the APPlicator and gets sent to the iPhone when the user presses the push-button switch. When the iPhone receives the letter ‘T’ it knows what it needs to do. I know that sounds a bit ‘techie’ but it all goes on in the background and when you’ve set it you can forget it.

Finally, connect the switch into the channel you chose. That’s channel ‘1’ if you are following me step-by-step.

Making a call

This is where it all comes together and you can make your first switch accessible telephone call. 🙂

  • Press the switch for a slightly longer period that you normally would – perhaps for half of a second (a bit of trial and error may be needed to get the best results for each individuals circumstance)
  • Letter ‘T’ tells the iPhone to leave any app it’s in and launch Siri.
  • Siri then asks ‘what can i help you with?’
  • Tell Siri to call ‘home’ or ‘mum’ or an individual telephone number such as ‘01630 123456’

I also found that if you have two switches programmed with channel ‘T’ then this can help if the iPhone throws a wobbly and gets a bit stuck. If that happens try pressing the second switch to get back to Siri.

It works, it’s far from perfect but it is certainly worth playing with. I’d love to know if it works for you.

Get in touch via our Contact Us page or why not give me a call; my mobile number is 07774 318443.

Music and Lights

The music and lights demo I set-up at the ASSERT conference and exhibition caused lots of interest and questions around how it worked together.

Twiligh Turtle Tunes featuring integrated Bluetooth speaker.
Twilight Turtle Tunes sensory light and sound toy

Just to recap, the kit consisted of a Twilight Turtle Tunes, my iPad (could also have been an iPhone or iPod Touch) and an iSwitch. Together these formed the basis of the music and lights show with optional switch control.

The iSwitch was not essential but I used it to show how switch access on the iPad could be used. Judging by the surprise people showed when they pressed the iSwitch most seemed unaware of switch access on the iPad. (Take a look at this earlier blog about ‘Using and iSwitch with the iPad’)

iSwitch for switch access to iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch
iSwitch for switch access to iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch

Twilight Turtle Tunes is a colour changing nightlight that also includes a Bluetooth speaker. As it’s Bluetooth then the iPad connects to it through the ‘Settings > Bluetooth’ menu.

Once a connection has been made the Turtle will automatically reconnect next time you use it – provided Bluetooth is ‘on’ on the iPad.


Making the Bluetooth connection

  • Switch on the Twilight Turtle Tunes and activate the Bluetooth connection by pressing the on/off button twice – the turtle will start to flash.
  • Open the iPad Setting app and go to Bluetooth and switch ‘on’. That makes the iPad look for all Bluetooth devices within range.
  • Look for ‘Cloud B’ and touch to connect it to the iPad.

Music and Lights

Cloud B Twilight Turtle projects colour changing lights
Cloud B Twilight Turtle projects colour changing lights

Open the music app and select whatever you would like to hear. Touch on the ‘play’ and you will hear it through the Twilight Turtle Tunes rather than the iPad speaker. The other feature of the Turtle Tunes is the the colour changing light show it projects from blue through green and yellow. That’s how I set-up the music and lights show.

Although I used this set-up to play music don’t imagine that’s all it can play. Essentially what you now have is a connected speaker and I’ve used it to play nursery rhymes, recorded stories even the sound track or sound effects of games, apps etc.

There are also two apps from Cloud B – the company that makes the Twilight Turtle Tunes – that play relaxing soundscapes. (a free version or a paid-for one which costs £1.49 in the App Store.) Both apps include a timer so you can adjust how long the soundscape plays at bedtime.

Switch access with the iSwitch

The iSwitch can be connected to the iPad through the same Bluetooth menu and then set to send the ‘Play/Pause’ command to the iPad.

(Have a read of ‘Using an iSwitch with the iPad’ blog post to find out about setting it up.)

The iSwitch comes into its own when the user can’t cope with the touch interface on the iPad but can cope with switches and understands the concept of ‘cause and effect’.

So, now we have a music and lights show combined with switch access; it’s so easy to set-up.

Have fun setting up your own music and lights show. Smile

Using an iSwitch with the iPad

The iSwitch gives users switch access to Apple’s iOS on the iPad (all models) iPhone (3GS onwards) and iPod Touch (3rd generation onwards). It’s produced by Pretorian Technologies Ltd and it’s their newest switch access kit for iOS. It sits alongside the APPlicator, Smoothie switches and their other assistive technology kit for iOS and PC access.

What’s in the box?

Link to the iSwitch on the Special-Needs-Toys website
iSwitch box contents: iSwitch, USB lead and Operating Instructions

The iSwitch – mines red but they also come in blue, green and yellow.

A USB charging lead.

Set-up and Operating instructions.

Let’s get going. The first thing to do is charge the iSwitch. The instruction leaflet tells you how; but simply, connect the small USB plug into the socket on the front of the iSwitch and then the larger plug into a USB socket on your computer. Turn the iSwitch over and you should see a small green light shining just above the red box; that tells you it’s charging. A full charge will likely take up to 2 hours. When it’s charged the green light goes out.

Whilst the iSwitch is charging it’s a good idea to read the instructions.

iSwitch front panel showing two switch sockets and USB charging port
iSwitch front panel showing two switch sockets and USB charging port


The first thing to notice about the iSwitch is that it has an integrated big button (75 mm diameter) switch. And, it also has the possibility to connect two more external switches through the two sockets on the front panel – see picture.

Looking left to right there’s the first external switch socket, the small USB charging socket and the second switch socket. All three switches can be set to do any of 24 commands that iOS understands. The instruction leaflet lists all of the iOS commands and for convenience the same list is on the bottom of the iSwitch as well as the buttons used to set it up.

iSwitch Control Panel

iSwitch underside showing Channel and Mode buttons and iOS commands
iSwitch underside showing Channel and Mode buttons and iOS commands

Setting up the iSwitch with an iOS command is really simple. This is what the ‘control panel’ on the base of the iSwitch looks like – see picture on the left.

Notice the two red push-buttons: the one on the left selects the ‘channel’ i.e. external switch 1, the integrated switch or external switch 2. The red button on the right sets the ‘mode’. (note: I called this the iOS command earlier.) Above are the led windows for external switch 1 or 2.

The battery charging light is at the top in the middle.

In-between the two red buttons is the red window where you’ll see the ‘mode’ you’ve set the iSwitch to send when the integrated switch or either of the two external switches are pressed.

All of the ‘mode’ commands are listed from ‘0 – zero’ to ‘U’ with an outline of what the mode command does.

On the left you can see a label that reads ‘Pretorian-59 IE32’ This is the device number the iPad sees in the Bluetooth menu. Each iSwitch has a different number along the lines of ‘Pretorian 59 ****.

Making a Bluetooth Connection

  • Go to the Bluetooth menu on your iPad (Settings then Bluetooth). Make sure Bluetooth is turned on; if not slide the iOS slider to the right.
  • Turn on the iSwitch by pressing either ‘channel or ’mode’ switch once.
  • After a few seconds the iSwitch should appear as a ‘discoverable’ device listed as something like ‘Pretorian-59 ABCD. Tap on the name and the pairing process will begin.
  • The iSwitch is ready to use when you see ‘Connected’ in the Bluetooth device list.

Which iOS Command?

Here I’m going to assume your planning to use the iSwitch with an app on the iPad. The first thing you will need to know is which iOS command(s) the app is expecting to receive. Unfortunately there’s not an international standard covering which iOS command is used to ‘scan’ or ‘select’ actions within apps. Generally, you’ll need to check each app before using it.

But here’s a general rule-of-thumb that will work most of the time:

For European apps: use ‘Space’ (mode 5) to scan within an app and ‘Enter’ (mode 6) to select an action in the app.

For North American apps: use ‘~1’ (mode 7) to scan within an app and ‘~3’ (Mode 8) to select an action in the app.

Setting the iOS command

  1. Press the ‘Channel’ button to select external switch 1, 2 or the integrated switch.
  2. Press the ‘Mode’ button to select the iOS command you need. For example, setting ‘Enter’ would mean you need to press the mode button until number ‘6’ appears in the red window.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 to set up the other switches if being used.

These steps are described in more detail in the Operating Instructions but essentially it comes down to selecting first the ‘channel’ and then assigning it an iOS command using the ‘mode’ button. Very simple and quick to set or re-set if needed.

Check this video as well: from Communicate AT in Australia.

Accessing Music Playlists and the Camera

The iSwitch can also be set to play music playlists and take pictures using the camera. The commands needed to control the music player are:

To play a music playlist

  • Mode ‘E’ for play / pause
  • Mode ‘F’ to skip a track forward
  • Mode ‘G’ to skip a track backwards
  • Mode ‘H’ to increase the volume
  • Mode ‘J’ to decrease the volume

As a minimum you’ll need mode ‘E’ on one of the switches. Setting up a second and third switch gives you more options.

To take pictures or shoot video

  • Mode ‘H’ normally used to increase music volume it also works as the shutter control in the camera app.


The iSwitch is a great iOS access device for switch control of apps. It’s simple to set-up and easy to use. I like the idea of the integrated switch and being able to connect two additional switches (if you need up to four switches then think about the APPlicator.) Recommended.