One of the most common questions I get asked by people who are new to technology is how to make iPad accessible for low vision, or how to configure iPad for seniors. It seems that everyone knows at this point that the iPad is a fantastic tool for independence and can help users with a variety of accessibility related tasks, but the accessibility menu itself can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t know what exactly you are looking for. Here is a list of the settings I use for how to make iPad accessible for low vision based on my own personal preferences, and how to set up an iPad for low vision.
How do I enable accessibility settings on iPad?
In order to enable these accessibility settings on iPad, users will need to go into the settings menu of their device, which is on their home screen. Depending on what version of the iOS or iPadOS software that is installed, the exact location of each of these settings may vary, though the names are the same.
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 below.
For users who do not constantly need a screen reader, the Spoken Content option is a great way to allow for a screen reader to be activated as needed, either displaying as an option when highlighting text or by speaking the screen by swiping from the top with two fingers.
Zoom magnifies the entire screen and is great for using apps that have smaller fonts, such as ones for restaurants or apps optimized for use with the iPhone. It has three different types of magnification views, including a window view, a full-screen view, and a split-screen view- I have a post linked below that goes much more into depth on how to use Zoom magnifier on iPad.
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
Magnifier is a built-in application that allows users to turn their device’s camera into a video magnifier. Like most video magnifying devices, Magnifier allows users to customize contrast, color filters, magnification levels, and even freeze an image without saving it to the camera roll. This is different than Zoom, which is a screen magnifier that enlarges content on the device itself. I like to use Magnifier to enlarge documents that are in small print or for reading environmental text like flyers.
- Magnifying Glasses For Low Vision
- Eight Ways To Read Handwritten Cards With Assistive Technology
- How I Use My Phone As Assistive Technology In Class
Display and Text Size
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.
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.
The button shapes feature 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.
There are two options for inverting colors on iPad- Smart Invert and Classic Invert. Smart Invert reverses the colors of the display with the exception of images, media, and some apps that already use dark color styles, while Classic Invert reverses all of the colors on the display, no exceptions. If I need to invert something, my personal preference is to use Smart Invert so that way I can view images with their original colors.
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.
- Black Or White: Choosing Dark Mode For Low Vision
- My Eight Favorite Free Fonts For Print Disabilities
- Choosing High Contrast Color Schemes For Low Vision
- Colored Paper and the Readability of Text
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.
On my personal iPad, I frequently use various settings like Zoom, Smart Invert, and Magnifier, but I don’t necessarily need to have them on all the time, and I don’t want to keep going back and forth to settings to turn them on and off. This is why I love the Accessibility Shortcut feature so much because it saves me a lot of time when activating settings. Users can add shortcuts for frequently used accessibility tools with the Accessibility Shortcut, which is activated by triple-clicking the home button, or by triple-clicking the side button for devices that don’t have a home button. Once the Accessibility Shortcut is activated, users can choose which setting they want to activate from a shortlist of settings.
To add settings to the Accessibility Shortcut, go to the Settings app and select the Accessibility menu. The Accessibility Shortcut customization menu can be found by scrolling to the bottom of the screen, and from there users can choose what settings they want to add to their Accessibility Shortcut menu.
Increase icon size
Did you know you can increase the size of icons on the home screen? This is configured outside of the accessibility menu, and can be found in the “Home Screen and Dock” menu of the Settings app. I have the “Bigger” view enabled and have discovered that it is much easier to locate apps this way.
Summary of how to make iPad accessible for low vision
- Accessibility settings can be configured in the Accessibility menu in settings
- VoiceOver is the built-in iOS screen reader for people who cannot read print
- Zoom is a screen magnifier that makes everything on the screen larger
- Magnifier turns the back camera into a magnifier
- Users can enable large and bold print text on their device
- Button Shapes and Increase Contrast make backgrounds of shapes sharper and easier to see
- Invert Colors reverses the colors on a display
- Color filters and reducing the white point can help users with recognizing colors more easily
- Reduce motion disables animations that may be disorienting, such as fast scrolling
- The Accessibility shortcut allows users to quickly enable Zoom, VoiceOver, or other accessibility settings
- The icon size for the home screen can be increased in “Home Screen & Dock”