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External buttons can help people, who do not only have problems to speak but also do have limited motoric functionality, so they have difficulties to use the large touch screen or choose the right pictogram. With such a button, LetMeTalk can be used, even if someone is only able to use one finger.

In this article we describe how to use external buttons or keyboards with LetMeTalk on iOS, which runs on iPad, iPhone and iPod. A similar article for Android can be found here.

We expect the configuration of LetMeTalk to be done by an guide (parent, teacher, speech therapist...) as it is very difficult to do for someone with limited motoric functionality.

 At the bottom you will find a list of screenshots which should help you during this tutorial.

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1. What hardware is supported?

1.1. Which iOS version do I need?

This functionality only exists in iOS7 and higher. Or with other words, if LetMeTalk runs on that device, the usage of external buttons should be possible.

1.2. What buttons can I use?

We suggest to use bluetooth buttons as we have tested only with those and they are easy to use. We expect other buttons to work too.

1.3. What hardware do you use in this tutorial?

In this tutorial we show an external switch / button called iMonkey from ZHC Systems. This button behaves like a Bluetooth keyboard with only 2 keys. One key is send after a short tap, the other one after a long tap. You can connect 2 iMonkeys and simulate 4 keys (2 buttons, each with short and long click) to make the usage more comfortable.

Other buttons should work. If you just want to test, you might even use a bluetooth keyboard which you might have lying arround or get for cheap money at a computer store. The iMonkey button comes with a very detailed Manual which should gives you even more Informations then our tutorial here.

The Screenshots were done on an iPad Air with iOS9.1, which is the latest version of iOS at the time of writing. It should be quite similar at different versions of iOS.

2. Pair the button with your iOS device

2.1. Pair

"Pairing" is a function to connect a bluetooth device (like iMonkey) with your iOS device. This has to be done only once. Once this has be done, the button should "just work" once it is close enough to your device.

To start pairing, go in the Settings app to Bluetooth and make sure Bluetooth is enabled. Below "My devices" You should see a list of bluetooth devices known and beside "Other devices" a wait indicator, showing that iOS is searching for new devices. You can see this on Screenshot.

Switch ON your button / keyboard if needed. To safe energy those devices usually are switched off when not in use.

On your button / keyboard should be a way to initiate "Pairing". In most cases it is hidden to avoid unwanted uses. Initiate Pairing.

Your button should now appear in the "Other devices" list. Select it by touching on it!

After a short moment your button should appear in "My devices" as "connected".You can see the expected result in Screenshot.

Now you successfully finished pairing your button with the iOS device.

2.2. Troubleshooting

Sometimes your iOS device does not find the button after restart. Then go to "Bluetooth" -> "My devices". Klick on "information" by your button. Then choose "Ignore device". You will see your button in "Other devices". Select your button again. Maybe you must klick on pairing on your button again. Now they are pairing again and it should work normally.

3. Configure Switch Controls

3.1. Enable Switch Control

Now we want to enable the Button for iOS itself. This is needed to use the button in LetMeTalk and other apps.

In the Settings go to "General -> Accessibility". In the "Interaction" chapter you can find the point for "Switch Control". See the Screenshot for this.

Select "Switch Control" and enable this functionality. See Screenshot4.

3.2. Autoscanning vs. Manual scanning

Now we have to split this tutorial for a short moment. iOS supports 2 different usefull using modi. This tutorial with describe both. Give them a try and decide which one you like most.

In "Auto Scanning" iOS moves a cursor automaticly from one item to another and the user has to press the button once the cursor is over the wanted item. In "Manual Scanning" the user has to press the button quite often to go to the next item and do a long click when the wanted item is reached. Because of the different behaviour we need different configuration of both modi.

Try which is better for your client. "Auto Scanning" is more comfortable, but with "Manual Scanning" you might be faster, which is more attractive for power users.

3.3. Auto Scanning

3.3.1. Activate Switches

On the "Switch Control" select "Switches". On the "Switches" Page you can see a list of already defined Switches, which should be empty. See Screenshot.

Select "Add New Switch -> External". You reach a page saying "Activate your external switch...". Click now for a short moment on the button. A button asks now for the name of the "New switch". Give it a name, for example "Button Click" abd click on "Save". See Screenshot.

Now a page asks you what functionality a click on the button should be executed. See Screenshot. Choose "Select Item".

The iOS device should now go back to the "Switches" page.

Please repeat the action, except that you click now for a longer time (about 2 seconds), give it the name "Button Long Click" and choose  "Stop Scanning". The Screen should now look like in Screenshot.

3.3.2. Configure Auto Scanning

Go back to the "Switch Control" page and select "Scanning Style". Enable "Auto Scan". See Screenshot.

Go back to "Switch Control". You will see that you can now more values in the "Timing" department then in the other Scanning Styles. Change them as you like it.

3.3.3. How to start Auto Scanning

 Auto Scanning is activated automaticly when you switch to a new category. If this is over (in "Timing" you can say how often it should repeat) you can restart Auto Scanning by clicking on the button.

 

3.4. Manual Scanning

3.4.1. Activate Switches

On the "Switch Control" select "Switches". On the "Switches" Page you can see a list of already defined Switches, which should be empty. See Screenshot.

Select "Add New Switch -> External". You reach a page saying "Activate your external switch...". Click now for a short moment on the button. A button asks now for the name of the "New switch". Give it a name, for example "Button Click" abd click on "Save". See Screenshot.

 Now a page asks you what functionality a click on the button should be executed. See Screenshot. Choose "Move To Next Item".

The iOS device should now go back to the "Switches" page. Please repeat the action, except that you click now for a longer time (about 2 seconds), give it the name "Button Long Click" and choose  "Select Item". The Screen should now look like in Screenshot.

Please note that this is the same as in Auto Scanning, but you chose different functionality for both buttons. This is important! When mixing up the Buttons functionality the usage of LetMeTalk is quite difficult!

3.4.2. Configure Manual Scanning

Go back to the "Switch Control" page and select "Scanning Style". Enable "Manual Scanning". See Screenshot.

Manual Scanning should now be up and running.

 

4. Optimize LetMeTalk for External Buttons

There are several options in LetMeTalk to make the usage with external switches easier then the defaults. Just try them out for better results. Please always ask your client which way he likes it better.

4.1. Short Categories

Make sure that in your all items of all categories are always visible when entering a page without scrolling! As the buttons do not support scrolling, all invisible items won't be accessible!

4.2. Disable "Speak category names"

It might be confusing if the category name is spoken each time the user changes the category.

Please ask the client what he/she prefers.

4.3. Enable Autoremove sentence (not availabe yet)

This clears the Sentencebar, once a sentence is spoken. With an external button it might be annoying to press "Delete" often enough.

This option doesn't matter, when sentence bar is disabled anyway.

4.4. Disable "Enable Sentencebar"  (not available yet)

This option does not show the sentence bar at all, so no sentence is collected. When you press at a word, it is spoken and forgotten by the app.

No need to press PLAY or to Delete the sentence bar.

4.5. Enable "Go back to Start category after selecting word"  (not available yet)

In a lot of situations you only select one word from one category, just to go back to the main menu and choose another category.

With this option enabled, LetMeTalk will jump to the back to the Start category right when the user selected a word.

Please use this careful and ask your client about it, as this option might be annoying by itself and do more bad then good.

4.6. "Change Speed Rate" to best speed

The voice might be too fast or too slow for your client. In the iOS settings you will find a setting to change the speed as it fits best.

4.7. Set "Group Items" to ON/OFF

When you enable "Group Items" on the "Switch Control" page the cursor will first mark larger blocks of items. When you click on the button it go down the hierarchy and select smaller blocks (for example a horizontal cursor). Touch the button, when the right block is marked until the wanted item is selected.

When "Group Items" is OFF, then iOS will just go from item to item. This might be easier to understand but it takes more time and might be annoying.

4.8. "Item Mode" vs "Point Mode"

4.8.1. Item Mode

iOS allows 2 different methods of selecting an item. One is the "Item Mode", where iOS selects certain blocks or items.You can see it in action in screenshot.

4.8.2. Point Mode

The other one is the "Point Mode", which shows moving horizontal and vertical lines, which allow you to select an item. You should use the button settings from AutoScanning (see above).

You can see it in screenshot.

 

Try both out and choose the one the client likes more.

 

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