Much of our work involves supporting clients trying out new assistive technologies to see which solutions work best for them. This is a crucial element in our client’s journeys towards independence, access to everyday things and for increased quality of life. The more assistive technologies they can experience, the deeper the understanding of what the client needs and what will work best for them becomes. Our ethos is all about trial and error, if something doesn’t work, that’s okay, we’ve learned something!

This trialling of assistive technology is particularly important when a device is very expensive. Our clients can explore a device to see if it is suitable for them, before they commit to buying one for themselves.

One such device is the TD Pilot. The TD Pilot is an eye-tracking (and other access methods) controlled device for iPad. It enables full use of the iPad and offers a communication aid for people with disabilities. So, you can imagine… it’s one of the more expensive assistive technologies available!

We have been supporting a number of clients getting to grips with a TD Pilot to see if it is a suitable device for them to use. As many of our clients are young, and the TD Pilot can be tricky to get the hang of using, we like to keep our sessions fun and engaging by focusing on enjoyable activities such as navigating Youtube, playing games or messaging friends and families.

When it comes to playing games on an iPad with EyeGaze as your method of access, there are only a handful of games in the Apple store that are designed in a way that allows EyeGazers to play them. There are EyeGaze specific games available but they are often aimed at younger ages and can be quite boring for older teenagers! In order for iPad games to work for EyeGazers, they have to be single click games that aren’t too complex, or require too many different types of clicking, for example, multiple tapping, swipping, clicking and dragging etc.

But! I stumbled across a game-changer! (quite literally…)

I have discovered that many more iPad games become accessible if you add a ‘Hold and Drag’ option to the iPad’s top level menu. When this is accessible from the top level menu, the user can select ‘Hold and Drag’ from the menu over the game. This allows them to dwell on an item in the game, this will select the item for them and hold it. Then they can move their eyes around and the item will be held and move around to. Effectively, it’s like using you’re finger to hold something and drag it across the screen without breaking contact with the iPad.

Typically in a game that requires dragging and dropping, the game will know you have dragged something to the right area and will release the item for you – a very helpful feature for EyeGaze users.

Let me give you a real life example…

A client of ours has a goal of increasing their literacy and reading skills. They are an EyeGazer using a TD Pilot to access everything. They have recently begun exploring literacy apps such as Khan Academy. Many of the games on this app require a click and drag style of interaction. So, without the ‘Hold and Drag’ function in her top level menu, she would not be able to access a lot of the games.

Now, let me tell you how to set it up…

Go into the iPad’s settings, click on Accessibility > In the physical and motor menu, click Touch.

Once in the Touch menu, click AssistiveTouch > If AssistiveTouch isn’t on, make sure it is by clicking the switch to green.

In the AssistiveTouch menu, Click the second option Customise Top Level Menu. This is where you can edit/add/remove options from this menu.

You can have a total of 8 icons on this menu, you will see a plus and minus button to add or remove icons. An empty icon space will have a plus on it. Press the plus, this will bring up a drop down menu with all the potential options to add to the menu. Scroll through the list until you find Hold and Drag.

Hold and Drag should now be in the Top Level Menu. This can now be used during gameplay to select the function to drag items in a game!

As we all know, Apple has been extremely thoughtful when designing all their accessibility functions on their devices. It’s wonderful to see that this mainstream company is creating with disability in mind and making sure their customers are able to access their devices no matter what they may face. This simple menu tweak allows so many more games to be played by individuals who don’t use direct touch as their method of access. Hurrah!

Main image credit: Tobii Dynavox