The Inclusive Church

iPads, iOS 6 and Special Needs Ministry

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:  

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

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:

A couple of hints as you 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!

To update your device via iTunes:


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!