As a user with low vision and a neurological condition, I rely on accessibility settings for iPad so that I can access information and interact with different types of content. However, there are some cases where I do not need to have settings enabled constantly, or situations where it makes sense to have an on/off switch on certain accessibility settings, and this is where having access to temporary accessibility settings for iPad is the most helpful. Here are my tips for enabling temporary accessibility settings for iPad, aimed at users with low vision and other print disabilities.
How do I enable accessibility settings on iPad?
To enable some of these accessibility settings on iPad, users will need to go into the Settings app on 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 of the settings are the same. In iOS 13 and later, a lot of these settings can be found in the Accessibility menu. I’ll be going over each setting in the order that it appears on the Accessibility menu in iOS 14 and then talking about applications and tools outside of the Settings menu.
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.
Before using Magnifier for the first time:
- Go to the Settings app and select the Accessibility menu
- Tap Magnifier, and then turn it on- it will be added as an Accessibility Shortcut
To activate Magnifier
On an iPhone X and later, or iPad with Face ID:
- Triple-click the Side button
- Drag the slider to adjust the magnification level
- To close Magnifier, swipe up from the bottom of the screen.
On an iPhone 8 and earlier, and iPad models with a Home button:
- Triple-click the Home button
- Drag the slider to adjust the magnification level
- To close Magnifier, press the Home button
Reader View is a built-in tool that allows users to view web pages with a simplified display, meaning that there is a consistent page layout with no ads or distracting images. Users can also customize visual elements such as the font, text size, and background color- I personally prefer the font San Francisco set to the maximum text size on a sepia background.
To activate Reader View within Safari:
- Select the Format Options icon, which looks like a capital A and a lowercase A together on the left-hand side of the URL/search bar
- Tap Show Reader View (which will be grayed out when not available)
- Alternately, users can long press on the Aa icon to open Reader View immediately.
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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. Which 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 short list of settings.
To add settings to the Accessibility Shortcut:
- Go to the Settings app and select the Accessibility menu.
- Locate the Accessibility Shortcut customization menu, which can be found by scrolling to the bottom of the screen
- Choose settings to add to the Accessibility Shortcut menu
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Customizing the Control Center
Another way for users to have quick access to their favorite accessibility settings is by customizing the Control Center, which is activated by swiping down from the top right edge. Users can add their Accessibility Shortcuts menu here so that they don’t have to triple tap the home screen or side button, or they can add individual settings such as Dark Mode, Magnifier, and Text Size. I like that I can have access to Control Center within apps as well as my homescreen, though users can choose to disable this option.
As a student with low vision, I love having the option to have text read out loud for several reasons. Some of these reasons relate to my fluctuating eyesight and issues with focusing my eyes, but others include encountering text that is a bit too small for me to read, dealing with eye fatigue at the end of the day from a full schedule of virtual classes, or being able to work with audio formats better. A lot of people suggest using VoiceOver for reading text out loud, but there’s actually a tool built into iOS that’s much easier to use for people who want to hear text read out loud without hearing all of the extra information about the page UI for VoiceOver. This option is called Spoken Content, and it can be configured in the Accessibility menu of the Settings application.
So what can Spoken Content do? Well, it gives users the option to highlight a selection of text and have it read out loud, or to have all content on the screen read out loud by swiping down on the screen with two fingers. Text is highlighted as it is read out loud so users can easily track what is being read, though this option can be disabled in settings as well. Like VoiceOver, users can also customize how fast they want text to be read out loud, choose their own voices, and similar.
For users that want Spoken Content with them wherever they go, there is a Spoken Content controller that can be enabled that would always be displayed on screen. When expanded, users can press play to start reading all content, or tap on the finger icon in the controller and have text read out loud wherever the user taps or drags their finger, exiting when the user lifts their finger. This is great for users who want to have more control over how fast Spoken Content reads things, and it’s a really helpful tool!
iOS Shortcuts is a built-in app that allows users to download or create their own custom actions that they can use on their device. I have an entire post series on iOS shortcuts, but some of my favorites include Speak Body of Text, toggling VoiceOver on and off within the device menu, turning on Reading Mode, and clipping articles to Notes. I recommend opening the iOS Shortcut app and exploring some of the different shortcuts available.
Summary of temporary accessibility settings on iPad
- Magnifier is a built-in app that turns the device’s camera into a video magnifier, which is great for magnifying papers or environmental text
- Reader View is a built-in tool that allows users to view web pages with a simplified display, with options to customize visual elements such as the font, text size, and background color
- The Accessibility Shortcut allows users to add shortcuts for frequently used accessibility tools, and is activated by triple clicking the home button, or by triple clicking the side button for devices that do not have a home button.
- Accessibility shortcuts can also be added to the Control Center, which is activated by swiping down from the top right edge
- Spoken Content is an on-demand tool that allows users to have content on the screen read out loud, without having a screen reader on all of the time
- iOS Shortcuts is a built-in app that allows users to download or create their own custom actions that they can use on their device, and has several accessibility shortcuts available