Friday, November 04, 2011

iPad Features

USING ACCESSIBILITY FEATURES ON THE iPad (or iPhone or iTouch for that matter)

I attended the class “What is an iPad?" at the Vision Loss Resource Center in Minneapolis (there is an office in St. Paul too).  I learned some very helpful information about accessibility features for those that have low vision and I’d like to share them with you.  This helpful information is taken from the teacher’s handout. 

  1. The user guide for the iPad can be found in the bookmarks of the Safari web browser.  There is an entire section on how to use the accessibility options.

  1. There are four accessibility features on the iPad (and other Apple mobile devices such as the iPhone and iTouch).
    • VoiceOver that converts text to speech
    • Zoom which enlarges everything on the screen
    • White on Black which changes the screen from color to white on black (this is an easier way for some low vision people to read). 
    • Large text which can increase the text size up to 56 point font but only in the mail and notes apps.

  1. The accessibility features are turned on by going to the icon for “settings” on the desktop, selecting “general” and then “accessibility.”

  1. VoiceOver cannot be used when Zoom is on and vice versa.  However, White on Black can be used with both VoiceOver and Zoom.

  1. If you are a low vision user and want to toggle between VoiceOver and Zoom, it is recommended that you enable the feature “Triple-click Home” which can be turned on in the accessibility area of “settings.”  If you quickly triple click the home button, a dialogue box will pop up allowing you to choose either Zoom, VoiceOver or White on Black. 

  1. VoiceOver has specific gestures associated with it.  These are different from what a sighted user would use.  These are described in the user manual but here are the basics:
    • When you put your finger on the screen, VoiceOver will tell you what you are touching.  For example, if you touch the icon for the Safari web browser, it will say “safari.”  If you want to open the app, double click with one finger.
    • VoiceOver usually reads text in chunks and puts a black rectangle around what it is being read.  If you want to scroll up or down a page, use a light three finger flick.  VoiceOver will tell you what page it is on.
    • If you want to pause VoiceOver as it is reading, tap the screen once with two fingers.  Do the same again to resume reading from the point at which you stopped.  This gesture is extremely handy when you have headphones on and someone begins talking to you!
    • To turn VoiceOver off, use a three finger double tap.  It will say “speech off.”  Use another double three finger tap to turn the speech back on.
    • To have VoiceOver read an entire document, do a two finger flick upward near the top of the first page.  It will begin reading and not stop until it reaches the end.

  1. Here’s the downside of VoiceOver – it works with all the apps that come pre-installed on the iPad, for example, the Safari web browser, iBooks, iCalendar, and notepad.  But it often does not work with third party apps that you buy from the app store, and you often have no way of knowing this until you have bought the app (fortunately many are free or only a few dollars).  Apple encourages its app developers to make them compatible with VoiceOver but many do not.

  1. Here are some apps the teacher likes and that work with VoiceOver:
    • iBooks – if you can buy it from the iBook store, VoiceOver will read it.
    • NPR or National Public Radio app.
    • Audible app – gives you access to a store that sells audiobooks.  You can buy them and immediately download them to your iPad.
    • Dragon dictation – allows you to dictate e-mails and send them. 
    • Read-to-go – this app links you to the Bookshare website and allows you to download any of its content:  books, magazines, newspapers.
    • Bamboo paper – if you buy a special pen, you can take notes in your own handwriting on the iPad.  VoiceOver will not read them but with Zoom or simply large handwriting, the notes are easy to see for someone with low vision.

So now, go ahead and practice.  It takes a bit of getting used to but is quite fun to try. 

                                                                                                            - Deb Kerkvliet

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