The Switch2Scan is the latest switch interface from Pretorian. At this stage, it is the second switch interface for the iPad/iPhone that offers access to the iOS and a range of apps that I have trialled.
The Switch2Scan was very easy to setup and use. The Switch2Scan is a Bluetooth switch interface – so there are no cables involved in its use. Like the APPlicator, the Switch2Scan has an internal rechargeable battery and the USB cable provided in the box is simply used for charging.
The Switch2Scan was very easy to pair with my iPad. While the interface is “unpaired”, pressing any button on the front puts it into pairing mode. I then simply had to go to the list of available Bluetooth devices on my iPad and select it. Once I had selected the device, the iPad and the switch interface were quickly connected and talking to one another .
Once the Switch2Scan and my iPad were connected, I had to ensure that VoiceOver was turned on in the Accessibility settings in my iPad. Like the Tecla Shield, the Switch2Scan uses VoiceOver as the vehicle for switch access to wider features of iOS. Using VoiceOver and the Switch2Scan, I can scan between Apps on the home screen, launch an app, etc.
The Switch2Scan has options for using between 1 and 4 switches to control the iPad – and has four ports into which a switch can be plugged. When using single switch mode, the switch has 3 functions and needs to be pressed for varying lengths of time to control the iPad. As you add more switches, the number of functions that each switch needs to serve is reduced. In two switch mode, the first switch only has one function, and the second switch has two. In three and four switch modes, each switch only has one function. The table below shows the different functions of the switches.
The buttons on the front of the Switch2Scan are used to select the number of switches, change the scanning speed and to turn the speech off in VoiceOver (turning it into visual scanning only). This would need to be done by someone other than the user as it isn’t possible to change these settings with a switch.
Please see the video below for a short segment showing 1 switch scanning with the Switch2Scan.
Switch access is limited to apps that are VoiceOver accessible. This includes all the apps from Apple and a number of others – and of course the iOS itself is VoiceOver compatible with Apple’s admirable committment to accessibility. Single switch scanning is slightly different from single switch scanning on a computer – but I found it much easier to pick up than the single switch scanning on the Tecla Shield as once the scanning is happening, selection of an item is a short tap. Since this is more typical of scanning on a range of devices, this made it much easier to get comfortable with using my switch and the iPad.
Switch control on the Switch2Scan gives you control of scanning, selecting and pressing the home button. This makes it slightly simpler to use than the TeclaShield which offers a lot more options – however I did miss one of those options at lot! On the Tecla Shield a long hold brings up the onscreen keyboard. When I was testing the Switch2Scan I sometimes had to select a text box three or four times before the onscreen keyboard automatically appeared – and sometimes it didn’t appear at all (which is what the manual indicates should happen). This is very limiting for a switch user. The Switch2Scan does have a button on the front which can launch the onscreen keyboard but selection of this button would require another person as it isn’t accessible with the switch – thereby reducing the independence of the switch user in controlling and using the iPad. Unfortunately, this would mean that once a user has opened the email app they would need to get a carer to come and press the keyboard button for them so that they can type an email.
However, the Switch2Scan does have some other features which aren’t available in the Tecla Shield which might make it a preferred interface for some users. When I was reviewing the Tecla Shield, I quickly noticed that control over books within iBooks was very limited. The limitations were due to the different ways in which publishers had created books. There were a very small number of books that I could control completely in the iBooks app – these were generally books that had a pictorial representation of the pages in the book offering me an option to scan between pages. Unfortunately, most iBooks didn’t have this pictorial representation – and on top of this changing pages in a large book using this method would probably require the patience of a saint. Therefore, I was really excited to see that the Switch2Scan has a specific iBooks mode which makes changing pages within an iBook an absolute breeze. Please see the video below for a short demonstration.
And finally, the Switch2Scan has a QuickAccess mode which makes it compatible with all of the different switch accessible apps available. As I discussed in my blog “How do I use a switch with an iPad – June 2012 update” there are a number of apps available which have already been released with a scanning mode. The Switch2Scan is also compatible with all these apps – which makes it a great choice for a school or an organisation who wants a lot of flexibility in an iPad switch interface. For a list of switch accessible iPad apps that I have compiled with Alex Dunn from Inclusioneers please click here.
Overall, the Switch2Scan is the most comprehensive switch interface for the iPad that I have tried to date. Unfortunately, some of the functions require pressing the buttons on the front of the interface, which would require help and reduce the independence of the person using the switch in accessing the iPad. If independent text entry is a strong requirement for the user and they aren’t really interested in iBooks then the Tecla Shield is a better option at this stage. However, the control offered over iBooks is fabulous – and if this is one of your primary reasons for switch access then this interface is definitely the one for you. It is also a more attractive iPad switch interface for schools and centres as it offers switch control over both iOS and VoiceOver compatible apps – and also switch control over the range of switch accessible apps available from iTunes. It also has a rechargeable battery and a much smaller footprint than the Tecla Shield which are important points for many users. Hopefully Pretorian can engineer a different way to trigger the onscreen keyboard with a switch. If they can do that then the Switch2Scan would definitely be my switch interface of choice!