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IPad built-in accessibility

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The iPad 2 from Apple



Personal computers and tablets have made great contribution to the areas of communication, information finding and task completion within today’s society. Accessibility features of these products are not only beneficial to users with functional limitations and impairments but also to those without. The Apple iPad features built-in accessibility options for vision, hearing, motor skills, and learning, allowing it to be considered an assistive device.

What are accessibility features?

Accessibility features are options of a product that allow a user to change settings to their personal preferences. These settings allow for individuals to change settings to accommodate to visual, hearing, language, mobility, and learning needs.Devices with accessibility features allow individuals to utilize products that may otherwise not be useful to them. Integration of certain features within a device may also allow for a product to be considered an assistive technology itself.

Visual Impairment

The integration of voice and tactile features into Apple’s iPad has positioned it as a beneficial assistive aid. Users have many options for both input and output of information to the interface of this device including VoiceOver, Speak Selection, magnifiers and Braille displays. Accessibility features specifically targeting needs of users with visual impairments include:

VoiceOver navigating the user to a new mail message.
VoiceOver navigating the user to a new mail message.


VoiceOver is the screen reader that comes built-in on the Apple ® iPad that operates by a single gesture. Voiceover contains an adjustable speaking rate as well as having 36 different built in reading languages. Many of the languages that are used contain different accents such as English (Australia) and English (United States). VoiceOver reads text as it is entered into the iPad as well as reading the selections on the home screen for the different applications. VoiceOver works within all of the built-in applications contained on the iPad.

Magnifiers and Zoom

Zoom allows the user to zoom in on selected areas of the screen. This feature works from within all applications as well as the home screen of the iPad. When enabled, a double-tap with three fingers allows the iPad to zoom in by 200%. When doing a double-tap and a drag of three fingers, it allows the user to dynamically adjust the screen from anywhere between 100% to 500%.

Invert Colors

A built-in accessibility feature of the iPad is having the option to invert colors. The inversion of colors changes the display on the iPad from black on white to white on black. The effect works from within all applications as well as the home screen of the iPad. The inversion of colors allows for higher contrast to aid when the user has visual contrast sensitivity issues.

Speak Selection

Speak Selection allows the user to select text in any application by double-tapping it and then having it read back. Speak Selection does not work in conjunction with VoiceOver since Speak Selection performs one of the functions contained within VoiceOver.

Large Text

Large text allows for the font size to be increased in a certain set of the built-in apps on the iPad. The list of the apps that allow for an increased font size are:

  • Alerts
  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • Mail
  • Messages
  • Notes

Braille Displays

The Apple iPad features compatibility with wireless Braille displays, such as the Focus 40 Blue and HumanWare’s line of Bralliant devices among others, that integrate with the VoiceOver function to allow visually impaired users to navigate the interface of their device. A few supported Braille Displays:

Alva Baum HumanWare Freedom Scientific
Alva 544 Satellite Conny BrailleConnect Focus 40
Alva 570 Satellite Pro PocketVario BrailleNote Apex Focus 14
Alva BC680 Pronto Bralliant Focus 80
The Alva Braille Display, supported by Apple and compatible with VoiceOver
The Alva Braille Display, supported by Apple and compatible with VoiceOver

All of these accessibility features can be used in combination with each other except for VoiceOver and Speak Selection. Speak Selection is a limited version of VoiceOver where it only reads certain elements of text that are highlighted making it only possible to use only one of these features at the same time.

Hearing Impairment

Accessibility modifications used to help the hearing impaired can range from simple amplification of volume to using text-to-speech technology to communicate with the hearing.

Closed Caption

The Apple ® Ipad supports the playback of captions as well as subtitling while playing videos. These captions can be used through movies purchased through the iTunes Store. Captions can also be created through a variety of optional tools and applications.

Mono Audio Feature

This feature allows for audio to be played in both audio channels in both ears, and lets users adjust the balance for greater volume in either ear.


By allowing both visual and vibrating alerts, the iPad communicates to both users with visual and hearing impairments. Users who may be not be able to audibly hear the signaling of a new alert on their phone can set LED lights for notifications.

Physical and Motor Impairment

In addition to accessibility features for users with visual and hearing impairments, the iPad features technologies that make the device accessible to users with physical and motor impairments.


AssistiveTouch allows the user to use multi-touch gestures to replace motions that may be difficult such as pinching or sliding using a single point input such as a fingertap or a stylus. AssistiveTouch also supports the usage of various input devices such as switches and keyboards.

Learning and Literacy

Due to attention problems, some users may need minimal visual stimulation to help with focusing or limit functions to a single application. Included are tools to aid in cognitive and learning disability.

Guided Access

Helps an individual with attention or sensory challenges stay focused by limiting the apps available to the user. This is accomplished by disabling the Home button and/or restricting touch areas on the screen.

Safari Reader

Safari Reader reduces the clutter on a website to decrease the sensory inputs to an individual that is easily overloaded. It removes ads, buttons, and navigation bars allowing the user to focus solely on the content on the page. Safari Reader also works in conjunction with Speak Selection and VoiceOver.


Dictionary definitions are integrated into iOS. Access to definitions, phrases, spelling, and grammar are quickly referenced. Simply tap the word to highlight and select Define.


Accessibility Feature Definition

iPad Visual Accessibility

iPad Hearing Accessibility

iPad Physical and Motor Skills Accessibility

Other Articles of Interest

Accessibility for Apple Computers

Accessibility for Windows Operating Systems

Accessibility for the Amazon Kindle

Accessibility for the Nintendo Wii