Tips to stop accidentally triggering unwanted iOS features

6 minute read

AssistiveWare's SLP Jennifer Marden updates our blog on how to avoid accidental triggering. The original blog is based on iOS trouble-shooting with Lisa Lehmann, Lateef McLeod and Glenda Watson Hyatt during ISAAC 2016.

Note: This article has been updated for iOS 12, which changed how certain gestures are handled. It adds new gestures to delight and/or bedevil those with fine motor challenges.

One of the highlights of attending the ISAAC (International Society for AAC) convention is the opportunity to talk with many people who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). This gives me the opportunity to not only have fun conversations with fabulous people, but to also observe the challenges they face with their AAC systems. At the 2016 ISAAC convention, I had the opportunity to observe several people who use AAC (PWUAAC) as they typed on their iPads.

There are some features of iOS (the software that runs the iPad) that can be easily be activated by dragging a finger from an edge of the screen towards the middle, or by tapping a special keyboard button. Triggering these features with this gesture can be very useful, but for some PWUAAC with fine motor issues, it may be all too easy to accidentally trigger an unwanted feature. This can interrupt the flow of communication, which can be frustrating, as typing for communication is already slower than speaking. Together with Lisa Lehmann, USSAAC President Lateef McLeod and Glenda Watson Hyatt we did some trouble-shooting at the AssistiveWare booth, and I’d like to share some tips we discovered.

Dictation on the keyboard

When using Proloquo4Text or the typing view in Proloquo2Go, you are most likely using the standard iOS keyboard to type. It allows you to use speech recognition to type. This feature is activated by tapping the microphone button to the left of the space bar:

Screenhot of Proloquo4Text with microphone icon on keyboard highlighted
Microphone on Keyboard

When speech recognition is active, you’ll see a waveform display on top of the keyboard:

Waveform display on top of the keyboard
Dictation on Keyboard

If you have fine motor issues, it can be all to easy to tap the microphone button by accident when reaching for the space key. If you don’t want use speech recognition, and have trouble with the feature being activated by accident, you can turn it off in the Settings app. Go to Settings > General > Keyboard, and turn Enable Dictation to Off:

iOS settings screen with Enable Dictation highlighted
How to disable dictation

Key flicking

Have you ever been frustrated by having to travel to the numbers page of Apple’s on-screen keyboard in order to find numbers and special symbols? In iOS 11, Apple has a solution for you. You can “flick” on keys in the main keyboard display to access numbers and other characters. To flick on a key, touch it and move your finger downward while keeping your finger in contact with the screen. The character that appears in a small, light font on the top of the key will be typed.

This is really convenient, but if you find you are triggering this flick gesture accidentally, you can turn off this feature. Go to Settings > General > Keyboard and turn Enable Key Flicks to Off.

iOS Settings app with Enable Key Flicks highlighted
How to disable key flicks

Taking control of the Control Center in iOS 9 and iOS 10

The Control Center was introduced in iOS 9. It gives you quick access to some frequently used settings without having to go to the Settings app. In iOS 9 and 10, the Control Center is accessed by dragging a single finger up from the bottom edge of the screen.

Control Center settings with Prolquo4Text in the background
Control Center settings

If you’re experiencing the Control Center coming up accidentally when you’re typing, you can change your settings so that this gesture only brings up the Control Center when you’re not running an app. To do this, go to the Settings app > Control Center, and set Access Within Apps to Off:

iOS Settings app with Control Center-> Access Within Apps highlighted

Swiping up changes in iOS 11

If you’ve updated your iPad to iOS 11, you won’t be able to prevent an upward swipe from the bottom of the screen from bringing something up on the screen. One swipe will bring the Dock.

iOS dock covering keyboard in Proloquo4Text

Note that the screen seems to be much less sensitive to a swipe from the bottom when the keyboard is visible, so this can be hard to do in an app like Proloquo4Text. So the fact that you can’t turn off that bottom swipe gesture may not be as concerned as it appears at first. Just continue to use the app you’re in, and the Dock will disappear.

If you happen to swipe twice from the bottom of the screen, this will bring up the new App switcher and Control Center in addition to the dock. If you want to go right back to the app you were in before all this swiping, tap the image app you were just in. It will be in the center on the top row (see the red box on the screenshot below).

iOS Control Center with Proloquo4Text selected

Apps appearing on the right in iOS 9 and 10

In iOS 9 and 10, on the the newer and more powerful iPad models, you can swipe from the right edge of the screen to get a small panel in which you can run another app:

iOS split screen with a list of apps on the right side

If you find that in practice you’re accidentally pulling out this panel, you can disable this feature. Go to the Settings app > General > Multitasking, and turn Allow Multiple Apps Off:

iOS Settings app > General > Multitasking with Allow Multiple Apps highlighted

Running Multiple Apps in iOS 11

In iOS 11 and 12, you are still able to run multiple apps at once. A side swipe from the right will no longer bring up the list of apps that can run “on the side”. Instead, you bring up the Dock by swiping from the bottom of the screen, and then drag an app from the Dock to the left or right side of the screen. This is fortunately harder to do accidentally, but if you would like to turn off this feature, turn off Allow Multiple Apps in Settings > General > Multitasking & Dock.

For more information on what you can do with multiple apps in iOS 11, see these excellent tutorials:

Four finger gestures

There’s another setting in Multitasking that can sometimes be helpful. iOS has some multitasking gestures that are triggered by swiping 4 or 5 fingers. If you’re finding that you’re accidentally triggering switching between apps or closing apps when you have 4 or 5 fingers on the screen, you can turn off Gestures in the Settings app > General.

iOS Settings app > General witg Gestures highlighted

Turn off Requests for App Store Ratings and Reviews

As developers, we really rely on App Store Ratings and Reviews. The help us keep in touch with our customers - and make sure our apps can be found by new customers, so we can stay in business! For this reason, starting in iOS 11 Apple allows developers to ask users for reviews and ratings while you’re running an app. You can turn off these requests by going to Settings > iTunes & App Stores, and turning off In-App Ratings & Reviews.

Settings > iTunes & App Stores with In-App Ratings & Reviews highlighted

Keep on talking!

Of course, all of these iOS gesture-based features are potentially useful, and if you’re not triggering them accidentally, there’s no reason to change your settings. But we thought people would like to know how to turn them off, in case they’re slowing you down!