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.
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
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.
- Magnifying Glasses For Low Vision
- Eight Ways To Read Handwritten Cards With Assistive Technology
- How I Use My Phone As Assistive Technology In Class
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.
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.
- Ten Ways to Reduce Eye Strain With Technology
- Colored Paper and the Readability of Text
- How Tinted Glasses Help My Light Sensitivity
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.
- How I Document Accessibility Preferences With Low Vision
- Accommodations For Print Materials
- Free dyslexia and low vision friendly fonts
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.
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.
Increase icon size
Did you know you can increase the size of icons on the home screen? I have the “Bigger” view enabled under the section “Home Screen & Dock”, 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
- Zoom is a screen magnifier that makes everything on the screen larger
- Magnifier turns the back camera into a magnifier
- VoiceOver is the built-in iOS screen reader for people who cannot read print
- Display Accommodations change how colors appear on the screen and make them more or less intense
- 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
- 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
- Restrictions can help with disabling tools such as the gif keyboard
- The icon size for the home screen can be increased in “Home Screen & Dock”