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iPads, iOS 6 and Special Needs Ministry

September 21, 2012

By Stacy Hodge

If you’re anything like me, you love Apple products and also love the fact that Apple has made accessibility on their products a priority for their company.  Finally, having a communication device with you at all times has become affordable, easy, and “cool”  to carry around, as opposed to those (albeit useful) huge, expensive, bulky, batter-draining devices of yesterday.

Apple continually improves their software, and with their iOS 6 update Wednesday, they have brought to the table upwards of 200 updates, many of which are wonderful functions that I have been waiting for!  While this update brings many great features to the iPad, iPhone, and iTouch, the ones I am most excited about are the accessibility updates that we can use beginning tonight in our ministry.

We have two  iPads that we use in our ministry, used mostly as communication devices and as Bibles with LARGE text.  We also use them for Bible story enrichment (through videos and games) and for just plain fun together as a group when we hook it up to the TV.  (Check out Meaghan Wall’s great posts about iPads and apps.)

Challenges with the iPad in the ministry setting:  

  • Handing an iPad to a child or student, with the application I want them to use open, and after a minute or so the individual pressing the “home” button and then switching to an app of their choice.  (This can happen even when someone is sitting right there with them one-on-one!)
  • Having the entire screen “active” when I want the student to only be able to scroll though a page or use just a specific part of an application.  (Having the entire screen “active” is also troubling if I have a student who has difficultly with their fine motor skills.  It can be difficult to hit the right button inside the app, or instead of scrolling, they will accidentally highlight a text.  This happens a lot when our Bible app is open!)

How iOS 6, “Guided Access” solves these problems:  

  • Now, the parent/teacher/buddy can disable the “home” button so that the individual cannot change the application they are working on.  They get the choice of the one app that is open when they get the device or no device at all.  (Presenting this to them before you hand them the iPad would be ideal, as they probably aren’t aware of the ability to disable the home button yet!  They will probably wonder why their iPad is all of the sudden “broken!”)
  • With “Guided Access,” parents/teachers/buddies can also choose which portion of the iPad/iPhone/iTouch screen will be active, and which portions of the screen, when touched, will be rendered inactive.

This updated feature is helpful for two reasons:

First, if you want the individual to work within a certain part of an app, you can make only aspecific portion of the screen active, and then they can only control that part of the app.  (Read-move forward through the story or video, and not just go back to the beginning 10 times!)

Second, if an individual has difficulty with fine motor skills, and they need help hitting one specific button within an app, you can make the rest of the screen inactive.  When you do this, the individual could sweep their hand over the entire screen, but the device will only recognize the portion where you allowed the button to be active, allowing the individual to independently navigate the app.

How Guided Access Works:

To begin using Guided Access:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access
  2. Turn Guided Access on
  3. Set a passcode
  4. Go back to the Home Screen, and choose whatever app you want your child/student/adult to work on
  5. When the app opens, press the Home button three times, and the Guided Access screen will appear

Now you can press “Start” and the individual working on the device cannot change the app, or you can outline the area(s) of the screen you do not want to be active.  If you choose to limit the areas of the screen, circle the area you want to become inactive, and it will turn grey.  Then, press “Start”, and the app will begin.  (I would suggest also turning the motion off, as it locks the screen in the current position with the current touch pattern.  If you don’t, and the individual turns the device from landscape to portrait or vice-versa, the touch pattern is gone and they can navigate though the app as though you hadn’t put any touch restrictions on it in the first place!)

To exit the Guided Access app, turn it off or change the guided touch area:

  1. Press the “Home” button three times
  2. Enter the passcode you set earlier
  3. Press the “Home” button to exit the app, select “End” to turn Guided Access off, or circle the area(s) of the screen you would like to disable

Next time you enter that same app, you can press the home button three times, and the guided access screen will pop up with the settings you used the last time you ran the app!  I love this feature!

The iOS 6 update does not work on every iPad.  It will only run on the iPad 2 and the new iPad released earlier this year.  Our ministry utilizes an original iPad which will not accept the new iOS 6 update and requires more careful monitoring when it s in use.

This updated software will also be available on the iPod touch 4th and 5th generation, and the iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S, and 5.  For more information about which devices will be compatible with the entire new upgrade, and which devices will only support parts of the upgrade, please visit apple’s website:

Other cool accessibility updates with iOS 6:

  • VoiceOver is now integrated with Maps, AssistiveTouch, and Zoom
  • Apple is working to introduce Made for iPhone hearing aids
  • Do Not Disturb setting-great for adults who live on their own and want to silence their phone while sleeping, but don’t want to miss an emergency phone call from parents/caregivers

A couple of hints as you update:

  • The new software needs your device to have 2.5 GB of free space in order to start the download.  You may have to remove  some things (music, apps no longer used, etc.) in order for there to be enough room for the update to download.
  • Be  patient while your device is updating; it can take a long time – especially if you try to get in the next few days when Apple’s servers are on overload from everyone updating at the same time.  From start to finish with restart time, budget at least one hour for the full update.

To load the new iOS 6 upgrade:

You can just skip to directly downloading the update, but I would recommend going through all these steps to backup and update everything at once and not lose any information on your device!

  • Back up your device to your computer (preferably) or at the very least, back it up to iCloud:
    • Open iTunes, and download the update to iTunes (You should have iTunes 10.7-you can check this by going to Help>Check for updates)
    • After you have iTunes 10.7, plug your device into your computer, and back the device up  (While in iTunes, choose on your device, choose “Back up to this computer,” then hit “Apply,” then “Sync.”)

  •  After your device is backed up, you can begin your software download without even opening iTunes!  If you have  iOS 5.1.1 you can update via wireless.  If not, skip to the next section do update via iTunes
  • Plug your device into a power outlet!  (Updating can require a lot of power!)
  • Go into Settings > General > Software Update
  • From this screen, you will be able to download the new software onto your device!  (Download > Agree)

To update your device via iTunes:

  • Plug your device into your computer and open iTunes
  • Choose your device, then click on “Check for Update”
  • Follow the instructions on the screen to update your device with the new software!


Stacy Hodge is the Director of the Special Needs Ministry at Hunters Glen Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, where she has served since the CARE Ministry’s beginning in June of 2008.  Hunters Glen is a church with just over 1,100 active members, and in just four years God has grown the ministry to welcome an average of 25 children, students, and adults with special needs on Sunday mornings.  HGBC also welcomes 10 adults from a local day-habilitation program on to their campus twice a week for Bible Study.  In order to minister to the entire family, the CARE Ministry offers sibling workshops, a mother’s group, a father’s group,  family fellowships, and inclusion within existing church ministries such as Disciple Now and Vacation Bible School.  Stacy serves alongside her 30 amazing volunteers, which make this ministry happen!

  1. Shannon permalink

    Oh my goodness – thank you for this! One of my tasks this week was to figure out how to best lock a tech-savvy kiddo out of other apps on our iPad during our Sunday night kids’ program. (We have a teen in the mornings who can be redirected more easily and exercise more impulse control, so it hasn’t been as much of a problem there.) We DO have an iPad2, and I didn’t know about this part of iOS6.

    (I don’t live in Mac land except for our ministry’s iPad :), so I’m out of the loop on this. Thanks, Stacy – and Amy, for this helpful post.)

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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