During one of my data science classes, the computer I use for writing Python code in class and that has all of my accessibility settings configured crashed and would not turn back on. Instead of giving up on doing the in-class exercises, I started writing Python code on iPad with Pythonista, one of my new favorite programming apps on my iPad that allows me to write basic programs with ease. Here are my tips for writing Python code on iPad with Pythonista as a student with low vision, in honor of Computer Science Education Week.
What is Python?
Python is a high-level and general-purpose programming language that was created by Guido van Rossum in 1991. It emphasizes readability and the use of white space, making it a great multipurpose language for people to learn, especially people with visual impairments. Python powers a lot of popular assistive technology tools, including the NVDA screen reader, virtual assistants, and other physical devices.
What is Pythonista?
Pythonista is an app for iPad and iPhone that contains a complete development environment for writing Python scripts using a large standard library of functions, using Python 2.7 and 3.6. While Pythonista does not teach users how to write Python, it does include access to the most common Python modules and example programs that can showcase the versatility of Python. Pythonista costs $9.99 and has no additional in-app purchases.
Once the app is opened, users can open external files or create a new file from the categories of empty script, UI, Extension Scripts, Scene, Testng, and other files. One the new file is named and saved on the device, users can type Python code just like in any other IDE, import libraries or functions, or check what is in the console. There are many different advanced features within the Pythonista app as well, but since I typically use my computer for writing code I haven’t experimented much with them yet.
- Computer Lab Accommodations For Low Vision Students
- CentOS Accessibility For Low Vision
- Questions To Ask When Choosing A Laptop For College
Pythonista with large print
By opening settings and going to the Editor section, users can configure the font type and font size for the Pythonista app, with the largest font size being 32. For improved readability, users can also set a theme for their editor with different colors, or create their own custom color palette by clicking the plus icon in the themes window. I use the Fira Mono Medium size 32 font with the Oceanic theme.
- My Eight Favorite Free Fonts For Print Disabilities
- Colored Paper and the Readability of Text
- Using High Contrast Themes In Windows 10
Zoom and Pythonista
Since the size 32 font is still somewhat difficult for me to read with low vision, I typically use the Zoom magnifier with the window zoom, which is a smaller lens view of the whole screen. I can drag the window over my text and magnify it as needed, or leave the magnifier window on top of the console. I also tested this app with the full screen Zoom view and was able to write a short “Hello World” type program with no issues, but I preferred the window zoom over the full screen since I was typing a lot.
Using VoiceOver with Pythonista
Pythonista works well with VoiceOver and reads all of the text and buttons on screen. At first, I had trouble getting VoiceOver to read more than one line of text at a time, but once I opened the keyboard and then closed it, VoiceOver read all of the code in the editor, stopping when I tapped the console area. Pythonista responded well to all of the VoiceOver gestures and I was excited to be able to use it in class with my bone conducting headphones.
What I use it for
Here are some examples of how I have used Pythonista:
- Doing simple in-class exercises when I didn’t have access to my computer
- Copying my code into the editor so I could take a screenshot for a project
- Looking at simulations and programs on a screen I can hold close to my face
- Following along with virtual office hours in one of my classes
- Showing my professors how I use a screen reader
How my professors have reacted
At first, my professor was skeptical that I could be writing Python code on my iPad, and I’m pretty sure they thought that I was checking Twitter in class or something similar. However, I was excited to show them the output of the code we were working on in class, and they were able to easily scroll through my code and point out where I had made errors so I could fix them. I was also thrilled that I didn’t have to strain my neck from looking at the computer screen closely.
Pythonista has helped me as a student with low vision studying data science to be able to follow along in class and do simple exercises without having to fire up the computer. I recommend Pythonista for anyone who is interested in Python, or who is interested in practicing their Python skills, as writing Python code on iPad with Pythonista is very easy to do!