The iPad is considered one of the most revolutionary inventions of the 21st century, especially in terms of accessibility. Whether it is an iPad for a low vision student or an iPad for seniors, anyone can benefit from having a highly useful and powerful device. However, before the iPad can be used, users must know how to make iPad accessible for low vision.
Here are the settings I enable for the iPad/iPhone to help make the device possible to use for low vision. All are found in the accessibility menu under general settings unless otherwise noted.
Altogether, it takes about ten minutes to enable all of the settings listed below.
Zoom magnifies the entire screen and is great for using apps that have smaller font, such as ones for restaurants or apps optimized for use with iPhone. It can be adjusted to window zoom while typing so that the entire screen isn’t distorted.
Note that screenshots taken with zoom enabled will not display the zoomed in image, but the whole screen with the display as normal.
Zoom can be activated after being turned on in settings by double tapping with three fingers
This is a built in magnifying glass with the device’s camera, and different than using the zoom function. It is activated by triple clicking the home button when enabled as an accessibility setting. This is super helpful when I am somewhere and can’t see small print or images, and also works with both the front and rear facing cameras.
VoiceOver is the built-in screen reader for iOS devices. Users with low vision will not likely need to have VoiceOver enabled full time, but it helps to know how to enable it anyway. VoiceOver has a bit of a learning curve, so I’ve written a tutorial for beginners.
This allows for a tint to allow users with different forms of color blindness to access their devices, but I personally use it to add a background tint to reduce blue light. I have it on a mild intensity and full hue, and it acts similar to the blue light filter guard on my computer.
Reduce White Point
Reducing white point makes whites on the screen less sharp and is extremely helpful for reducing glare. This can also make the dimmest display on the screen even dimmer when reduced to 75% or higher. Mine is at 50% at all times.
Turn on large accessibility sizes and make text even larger! I have it on the largest available which is equivalent to about a size 36 font. This is probably the most critical setting for learning how to make iPad accessible for low vision.
Bold text creates larger weighted font that is easier to distinguish. This is especially helpful for people with dyslexia or other print disabilities that benefit from weighted text.
Button shapes puts backgrounds on buttons so they are high contrast and therefore easier to notice. It can best be described as a subtle, shaded effect with easy to distinguish shapes. The target area is also large, meaning the buttons are easier to press.
I reduce transparency and darken colors to create a high contrast display, a feature that integrates well with the button shapes. This is not overly noticeable to other people who use my iPad, and I have found it does not have much of an effect with color display in photos- all colors look good.
I reduce motion to disable animations that can hurt my eyes. This is tremendously helpful for people who have prisms in their glasses, as fast moving animations can cause vertigo for some. People with photosensitivity also may appreciate having this setting enabled.
By triple clicking the home button, you can edit accessibility settings. I have guided access and magnifier on mine. Siri is the default accessibility shortcut.
If more than one application is set, then a small menu will be displayed when the home button is triple clicked.
Found in general, this is the parental controls section of the device. While it may seem silly to set your own controls, this eliminates the gif keyboard in iMessage if you restrict websites for adult content. I recommend putting all of the websites you access often in the “always allow” section first, and keeping the passcode handy, as sometimes websites are randomly blocked.
By knowing how to make iPad accessible for low vision, a person with low vision will be able to harness all of the capabilities of the iPad and use it to enhance their ability to use assistive technology.