Alternative Switch Access for the iPad Mini


Harborside Center

Strand #1

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Strand #2

Social & Emotional Skills


The IPad has the potential to revolutionize the education and training for students both with and without disabilities. However, some students may not be able to access the iPad directly because of physical and/or intellectual disabilities. This proposal will help teacher candidates learn different ways to utilize the iPad by demonstrating/utilizing alternative methods to access the iPad. Participants will also be shown how to develop alternative methods to help all students effectively utilize the IPad for educational purposes. This will be relevant with both the Academic Achievement and Social & Emotional Skills strand.

Brief Program Description

Some students may not be able to access Assistive Technology devices directly. This session will demonstrate alternative input methods to help students utilize the IPad for educational purposes.


The project was used to develop new materials for existing courses in assistive technology. The types of materials we used were some adapted switches for alternative keyboard/IPad access, materials to make battery interrupters as a means to teach switch use, and several alternative input devices.

Students were taught how to use the adapted switches and used the switches on the IPads to alternatively access the IPads for teaching/learning opportunities. Students learned to access/evaluate appropriate educational apps and develop teaching lessons based on the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards, the Alabama Course of Study, and Common Core standards incorporating the IPad. The teacher candidates then took the materials out into their practicum/internship placements and tested these newly developed skills in an actual lab setting with students with disabilities in the public schools, thus enforcing the idea of service learning in the profession. Teacher candidates were taught both how to use the IPad as a learning tool, and to learn ways to modify/adapt it as a teaching device.

This project had the students collaborating across disciplines. In this project, we worked closely with Disability Support Services to help introduce our teacher candidates to AT devices that are available on campus. This also helped expand their practical experiences to include post-high school/chronological aged peers. Also, we invited faculty from other disciplines to come to the sessions and learn how AT can be used in classes with non-disabled students.

We further taught the students how to take common push lights to develop their own adapted switches. Several push lights were purchased at the local Dollar Tree and we very inexpensively turned into adapted switches. This method to develop personalized adapted switches will also be demonstrated at this session.


Adaptive switches allow the physically challenged and special needs user to activate assistive technology devices in their environment. What appears as simple as a button, the proper switch will open up worlds of access to communication devices, environmental controls, computer software and mobile devices.However, these switches can also be used with students without recognized disabilities, but may be at-risk for developing disabilities if their needs are not met. This session will demonstrate and build on a recognized and proven approach for alternative ipad access.


Poster Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Larry Beard has more than 30 years of K-12 and higher education teaching experience in special education. He earned a B.A. in Psychology and a B.S. in special education from The University of Alabama. Upon taking a position teaching severely/profoundly/physically-impaired pre-schoolers, he continued his education and earned his M.A. in multiple disabilities, his Ed.S. in mental retardation, and his Ed.D. in multi-handicapped all from The University of Alabama. He teaches a variety of graduate and undergraduate classes in collaborative teaching, and serves as the advisor for the Educational Specialist degree candidates in the area of collaborative teaching. He also has co-authored a best selling text on assistive technology and does AT evaluations around the state.

Dr. Cynthia Connor, Assistant Professor of Special Education at Jacksonville State University (JSU), has a M.A. from Teachers College, Columbia University and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in the area of special education. Her research focus includes teachers’ use of assistive technology with students with severe disabilities and transition. She is co-director of JSU’s Transition University. Having taught special education for 23 years in Pre-K-12 schools in Alabama, Virginia, and New York City, Dr. Connor currently instructs pre-teacher candidates and graduate students in special education methodology; including transition, collaboration, and strategies for working with students with mild and severe disabilities.

Keyword Descriptors

assistive technology, adapted switch access

Presentation Year


Start Date

3-8-2016 4:00 PM

End Date

3-8-2016 5:30 PM

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Mar 8th, 4:00 PM Mar 8th, 5:30 PM

Alternative Switch Access for the iPad Mini

Harborside Center

Some students may not be able to access Assistive Technology devices directly. This session will demonstrate alternative input methods to help students utilize the IPad for educational purposes.