Using a Big Blue Keyboard and Word Prediction on an iPad

Big Bluetooth keyboard w tablet stand
RJ Cooper’s Keyboard-Tablet Combo Stand and Big Blue Keyboard

A big Thank-You to RJ Cooper for lending me a Tooth Keyboard and Tablet Stand Combo and Big Blue Keyboard to demonstrate input equipment for the iPad at an upcoming OT’s with Apps Workshop (March 7-8th). Reviewing and comparing apps and equipment that support writing will be just one of the many topics covered at the workshop. Exploring how the Big Blue keyboard works and what apps it works with to support individuals needing writing supports brought about many questions about how it can be used to support those with motor challenges.

Bluetooth keyboards, of course, come in all different sizes, however, most are either small or a standard keyboard size, making them difficult to access for individuals with poor motor control.

Big blue keyboard

Using RJ’s Big Blue keyboard (Bluetooth) provides an alternative method of access to the keyboard, but brings a number of questions beyond keyboard input about other tools often needed to support writing can be used on the iPad. Such tools as  word prediction, text to speech are often needed for more efficient input or writing support for many writers. How do those tools work with a Bluetooth keyboard to support written composition for individuals with motor and literacy challenges?

Many of those answers were fortunately provided by RJ Cooper’s thorough instructions and tips about the use of the Big Blue keyboard with the iPad. Although I wanted to trial it with many of the word prediction programs to see which ones would work, RJ provided suggested apps trialed by him and methods of access (what a resourceful guy RJ is!).  RJ’s instruction supplied information on the use of iOS Voice Over functions with the keyboard and specific apps that work well when needing  word prediction, text to speech for written composing on the iPad.

Here are some basic instructions on using RJ’s Big Blue keyboard with the iPad (see below link for RJ Cooper’s written instructions):

iPad and Big Blue Bluetooth Keyboard Connection:

1. To connect the iPad to Big Blue : Go to Settings> Bluetooth> slide the button on (allows recognition of Bluetooth devices):

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2. On the Big Blue keyboard, press the Bluetooth inset button on the back of Big Blue to start recognition and pairing (instructions for connecting Big Blue from RJ):

big blue btconnect 2

3. When the Clevy Bluetooth Keyboard US is recognized. Tap on Clevy Keyboard in the Devices list to pair. Pairing between the keyboard and iPad will require you to type in a code on the Big Blue.

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4. The Big Blue lights will flash indicating pairing and the keyboard will be ready to use. When using a Bluetooth keyboard the standard keyboard will not appear.

The Big Blue provides easier physical access to a keyboard with its large keys and positioning as needed pending the users needs. What apps now provide word prediction, text to speech and selection for users needing writing supports? Keyboard shortcuts and function keys provide methods of selection when using a Windows or Mac computer but what will work on the iPad? Fortunately, as aforementioned, RJ provides instructions.

Using VoiceOver With Word Prediction Apps (see list for specific word prediction apps):

1. In Settings> General> Accessibility Shortcut > Select Triple-Click the Home Button For: VoiceOver :

triple click for voice over

This will allow VoiceOver to be easily turned on and off when the Home Button is clicked three times quickly at any time.

2. A Big Blue switch on the back of the keyboard must be turned on to Key Repeat.

big blue func3

3. With your keyboard and iPad paired. Open your selected word prediction app (WordQ is the app featured below). Prior to start of typing, triple click the Home Button to turn VoiceOver on. You will hear a message “VoiceOver is on”.

4. Using the right and left arrow keys (← , →) on Big Blue allows navigation within features of the app  such as the text field area and word prediction list.

Big blue keyboard w r l arrow keys circled

WordQ with VO pic5. Selection of an item using VoiceOver can be made using the ↑, ↓ arrows simultaneously on the Big Blue keyboard allowing words from the prediction list entered into the document text field.

Big blue keyboard w up down arrow keys circled

Creating a quick cap affixed to the up and down arrow keys simplified activation using one finger or touch of both keys.

Big Blue key joiner

6. Additional control of navigation can be done using the altgr key which turns On/Off QuickNav allowing navigation within the text field or screen items. The keyboard keys can be used at any time to type, backspace, enter when word processing.

Big blue keyboard w altgr key circled

Practice with navigation and selection of the word prediction took a bit of time to learn, but once familiar resulted in use of the keyboard to type and navigation basically within the app.

RJ Cooper shared successful use of the keyboard with VoiceOver using the following apps:

Trial with word prediction apps found Brevity app, a basic app with word prediction, WordQ and AppWriter to work well with VoiceOver and RJ’s Big Blue keyboard. From my trials, I did not find success using  CoWriter, TypoHD or iReadWrite apps with Big Blue and VoiceOver, however, I would never dismiss user error as a reason for lack of successful use! Abilipad, PantherWriter  and Rocket Keys, nor Clicker apps were not trialed (that’s another day’s work!).

What keyboards or apps for individuals with motor and literacy challenges have you successfully used? Please share!

Interested in learning more about apps, iOS functions, keyboards and other equipment used in OT practice? Join OT’s with Apps for the School Based OT on March 7-8 for two days of apps for writing, reading, math, self-regulation, OT administration and hands on trials with a variety of iPad equipment.  Hope to see you there!

Again, a big thank you to RJ Cooper for loaning out his Keyboard-Tablet Combo Stand and Big Blue Keyboard!

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About Carol Leynse Harpold, MS, AdEd, OTR/L, ATP

OTR/L with 30 years experience in pediatrics, school based therapy and adult rehabilitation. Masters of Science in Adaptive Education/Assistive Technology with 15 years experience in AT in education of elementary, middle school, secondary and post secondary students. Experience with adults with disabilities in employment and work transition.
This entry was posted in Accessibility, Accessories, Apps for OT's, Apps for Special Needs, iPad, iPod/iPad Accessory, Keyboard, Mobile Device Use, Mobility Impairment, Occupational Therapy, Special Needs, Text to Speech, Word Prediction, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

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