How to use Switch Control on iPhone and iPad

Apple's new Accessibility Assistant shortcut
Apple's new Accessibility Assistant shortcut (Image credit: Matthew Cassinelli / iMore)

Switch Control is an accessibility feature in iOS that allows folks with limited mobility to have full use of their device with the help of ability switches and other adaptive devices. When Apple makes the iPhone more accessible, it helps make the iPhone the best iPhone it can be, and Switch Control is a very robust feature.

Items on the screen are sequentially highlighted and can be activated by tapping, moving your head in front of the selfie camera, or pressing adaptive switches. You can also use point scanning and gestures, like pinching to zoom. Plus, you can even use multiple switches in iOS 15. Here's how to use Switch Control on iPhone and iPad

Note: Switch Control is easiest to set up if you pair your adaptive device first in your iPhone or iPad's Bluetooth menu.

How to enable Switch Control

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.

Accessing the accessibility menu: Launch Settings and then tap accessibility. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Switch Control.
  2. Tap the Switch Control On/Off switch. It will be green when the feature is enabled.

Turning on Switch Control feature: Tap Switch Control, and then tap the on/off switch for Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)

You can turn off Switch Control whenever you want by following the same steps above.

How to add a new switch

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Switches.
  2. Tap Add New Switch…
  3. Tap a source.
    • External: You'll have to activate your external switch.
    • Screen: You'll have to select Full Screen afterward.
    • Camera: If you choose the camera, you'll also have to select actions for Left Head Movement and Right Head Movement.

Create Switch Control: Tap Switches, tap add new switch, and then tap a source. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap the switch action you want the switch to do.
  2. Tap Long Press to set up a long press switch action. This is optional.

Add New Switching Switch Control: Tap the switch action you want and then tap long press to set up a long press action if you want. (Image credit: iMore)

How to delete a switch

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Switches.
  2. Swipe left on the switch you want to delete.
  3. Tap Delete.

Delete Switch in Switch Control: Tap switches, swipe left of the switch you want to delete, and then tap delete. (Image credit: iMore)

How to create a new recipe

A recipe is a set of actions that you can temporarily assign to switches in place of their normal actions. You can use recipes to perform frequently repeated or complex actions, like turning pages in iBooks. You'll need to have an adaptive switch connected to your device, but to get into the new recipe section, do the following:

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Recipes.
  2. Tap Create New Recipe...

Create New Recipe in Switch Control: Tap recipes and then tap create new recipe. (Image credit: iMore)

From there, you'll be able to name your recipe and configure it with your adaptive switch or other assistive devices.

How to change scanning style

Changing the scanning style will change how you move through items on the screen. Auto Scanning is the default, but you have options if you would prefer to be in control.

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Scanning Style.
  2. Tap a scanning style:
    • Auto Scanning: Moves focus automatically after a specified duration
    • Manual Scanning: Requires a switch to be engaged to move focus and a second to activate items
    • Single Switch Step Scanning: Requires a switch to be engaged to move focus, and if no action is taken within a certain amount of time, the item in focus will automatically be activated.

Choose Scanning Style in Switch Control Menu: Tap Scanning style, and then tap the scanning style you want. (Image credit: iMore)

How to change Auto Scanning Time

This will change how long it takes for Switch Control to automatically scan through items on a screen.

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Auto Scanning Time.
  2. Tap the plus and minus buttons to increase or decrease time.

Change Auto Scanning Time In Switch Control Menu: Tap auto scanning and then tap the + and - buttons to adjust time. (Image credit: iMore)

How to enable Pause on First Item

If you get to a screen but need a second to get your bearings, you can enable Pause on First Item, and scanning won't start until you say so.

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Pause on First Item.
  2. Tap the Pause on First Item On/Off switch. When the switch is green, the feature is enabled.

Enable Pause On First Item In Switch Control Menu: Tap pause on first item On/Off switch. (Image credit: iMore)

How to change the number of loops

After each item on the screen has been visited a certain number of times, the cursor will become hidden. Here's how to change how many times the scan loops.

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Loops.
  2. Tap a number. You can loop from 1 to 10 times.

Changing Number of Loops in Switch Control: Tap loops and then tap the number you want. (Image credit: iMore)

How to enable Move Repeat

If you need a little more time, Move Repeat will repeat the delay before "Move To Next/Previous Item" while a switch is pressed.

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Move Repeat.
  2. Tap the Move Repeat On/Off switch. When the switch is green, the feature is enabled.

Enable Move Repeat in Switch Control Menu: Tap Move Repeat and the tap the move repeat On/Off switch. (Image credit: iMore)

How to enable and change the duration of Long Press

You can use Long Press to add another action to a switch that is activated when you hold it for a certain length of time. Here's how to enable it and change its duration.

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Long Press.
  2. Tap the Move Repeat On/Off switch. When the switch is green, the feature is enabled.
  3. Tap the plus or minus button to increase or decrease the length of time you have to press before Long Press is engaged.

Enable Long Press in Switch Control Menu: Tap long press, tap the long press on/off switch, and then tap the + or - buttons to adjust the time. (Image credit: iMor)

How to change tap behavior

Tap behavior is what happens when the Select action is activated. It displays the Scanner Menu by default.

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Tap Behavior.
  2. Tap an option:
    • Default
    • Auto Tap: You change the Auto Tap duration when it's enabled. Just tap the plus and minus buttons that appear.
    • Always Tap

Change Tap Behavior in Switch Control Menu: tap 'tap behaviour' and then tap the option you want. (Image credit: iMore)

How to change which item is focused after tapping

You can change the item that Switch Control scans after an item is tapped. Here's how:

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Focused Item After Tap.
  2. Tap either First Item or Current Item.

Focused Item Settings in Switch Control Menu: Tap Focused Item After Tap and then tap the option you want. (Image credit: iMore)

How to enable Always Tap Keyboard Keys

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.
  4. Tap the Always Tap Keyboard Keys On/Off switch. When the switch is green, the feature is enabled.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, tap Switch Control, and then tap the Always tap keyboard keys on/off switch. (Image credit: iMore)

How to enable Extended Predictions

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.
  4. Tap the Extended Predictions On/Off Switch. When the switch is green, the feature is enabled.

Enable Predictions Switch Control Menu: Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, tap Switch Control, and then tap the extended predictions on/off switch. (Image credit: iMore)

How to enable and change hold duration

You can enable and modify a hold duration so that your adaptive device must be held for a certain amount of time before a press is recognized. Here's how:

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Hold Duration.
  2. Tap the Hold Duration On/Off switch. When the switch is green, the feature is enabled.
  3. Tap the plus and minus buttons to lengthen or shorten the duration.

Change Hold Duration Switch Control: Tap hold duration, tap the hold duration on/off switch, and then adjust the time with the - and + buttons. (Image credit: iMore)

How to enable Ignore Repeat

Ignore Repeat is the time in which multiple presses are treated as a single input. This duration has to be less than the Auto Tap duration so that a double input press can be used.

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Ignore Repeat.
  2. Tap the Ignore Repeat On/Off Switch. When the switch is green, the feature is enabled.
  3. Tap the plus and minus buttons to change the duration.

Enabling Ignore Repeat in Switch Control: Tap ignore repeat, tap the ignore repeat on/off switch, and then adjust the duration with the plus and minus buttons. (Image credit: iMore)

How to change Gliding Cursor Speed

You can change the speed at which the Gliding Cursor moves across the screen. Here's how:

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Gliding Cursor Speed.
  2. Tap the Selection Mode you want
  3. Tap the plus or minus button to increase or decrease the speed.

Change Gliding Cursor Speed Switch Control: Tap Gliding Cursor, tap the selection mode you want, and then use the plus or minus buttons to adjust the speed. (Image credit: iMore)

How to enable Head Tracking

When you enable Head Tracking, it uses the camera to track the movement of your head to control the pointer on the screen. Here's how you turn it on.

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Head Tracking.
  2. Tap the Head Tracking On/Off switch. The switch will turn green when enabled.

Enable Head Treacking In Switch Control: Tap head Tracking and then tap the head Tracking ON/Off Switch. (Image credit: iMore)

How to enable Sound Effects

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.
  4. Tap the Sound Effects On/Off Switch. When the switch is green, the feature is enabled.

Enable Sound Effects Switch Control: Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, tap Switch Control, and then tap the Always tap keyboard keys on/off switch. (Image credit: iMore)

How to enable speech in Switch Control

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Speech.
  2. Tap the Speech On/Off switch.
  3. Tap and drag the slider left or right to change the speaking rate. The right is faster; the left is slower.

Enable Speech in Switch Control Menu: Tap speech, tap the speech on/off switch, and then tap and drag the slider to adjust the speed. (Image credit: iMore)

How to change the speech voice in Switch Control

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Speech.
  2. Tap Voices.
  3. Tap the voice you want to use.

Change Switch Control Voice: Tap speech, tap voices, and then tap the voice you want. (Image credit: iMore)

From here, you'll be able to hear what the voice sounds like. Note: You may have to download some of the voices before you can use them.

How to change menu items in Switch Control

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Menu Items.
  2. Tap a menu:
    • Top Level
    • Gestures
    • Device
    • Settings

Changing Menu Items In Switch Control: Tap menu items, and then tap on the menu you want to change. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap a menu item to disable/enable it.
  2. Tap, hold, and drag the Reorder button (three horizontal lines) to reorder menu items.
  3. Tap the switch next to Show Streamlined First Page to enable/disable it. Having it enabled will make only the most important menu items be shown on the menu's first page.

Adjusting Menu Items in Switch Control: Tap a menu item, tap, hold, and drag the reorder button to reorder menu items, tap the switch next to Show Streamlined (Image credit: iMore)

How to enable/disable Group Items

Grouping items allows for faster navigation.

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.
  4. Tap the Group Items On/Off switch. When the switch is green, the feature is enabled.

Enable Group Item in Switch Control Menu: Launch Settings, tap accessibility, tap Switch Control, and then tap the group item on/off switch. (Image credit: iMore)

How to enable the large cursor

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.
  4. Tap the Larger Cursor On/Off switch. When the switch is green, the feature is enabled.

Enable Larger Cursor in Switch Control Menu: Launch Settings, tap accessibility, tap Switch Control, and then tap the group item on/off switch. (Image credit: iMore)

How to change cursor color

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Cursor Color.
  2. Tap a color:
    • Blue
    • Red
    • Green
    • Yellow
    • Orange

Change Cursor Color Switch Control Menu: Tap cursor color, and the tap on the color you want. (Image credit: iMore)

How to create a new gesture

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Switch Control.

Launch Switch Control Settings: Launch Settings, Tap accessibility, and then tap Switch Control. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Saved Gestures.
  2. Tap Create New Gesture…
  3. Tap or swipe to create a custom gesture.
  4. Tap Stop in the bottom right corner when you have finished making your gesture.

Creating Custom Gesture Switch Control Menu: Tap saved gestures, tap create new gesture, tap or swipe to create a custom gesture, and then tap stop. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Save in the top right corner of your screen when you're finished.
  2. Type in a name for your new gesture.
  3. Tap Save.

Saving Custom Gesture in Switch Control Menu: Tap Save, type a new for your gesture, and then tap save again. (Image credit: iMore)

Remember, you can tap Record if you want to re-do your gesture before saving. Any new gestures will now appear as an item under Saved Gestures.

iPhone's accessibility features are super important

Apple's constant updates and additions to the iPhone's accessibility features are one of the things that make your iPhone the best iPhone it can be.

We've also been really impressed with just how robust and useful Voice Control is on iPhone as well.

Updated June 2022: Updated for the newest version of iOS 15.