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Help Your Visually Impaired Students with iPad's VoiceOver Feature

iPad comes with accessibility features that make it easier to use for the visually impaired student. VoiceOver is the main accessibility feature for visually impaired iPad users. VoiceOver narrates (reads out loud) onscreen text. Turn on VoiceOver by tapping the Settings icon, tapping General, and setting VoiceOver to On.

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VoiceOver is a gesture-based screen reader that enables a student to interact with the iPad even if he or she can’t see the screen. For example:

  • Touch anything onscreen to hear a description of it.

  • Double-tap to select. A single tap announces the description, and a double tap selects any item or icon.

  • Scroll with three fingers. Scroll up–down or left–right by swiping with three fingers.

  • Drag your finger to hear about elements on any screen. Drag your finger around the iPad home screen, and as it passes over an app icon, VoiceOver will announce the name of the app and remind you to double-tap the icon to open it. The same applies to any web page or screen within an app.

  • Have notification alerts read aloud: As you receive notifications onscreen, VoiceOver detects and announces them to you.

  • Receive system information: VoiceOver also gives you information about your device. Tap the icon for battery level, network signal level, or time of day, and VoiceOver announces the data to you.

  • Adjust the speaking speed: VoiceOver allows you to set whatever speed speech best suits you. It also uses sound effects to announce events such as an app opening or when the iPad switches between landscape and portrait modes.

    Never to be outdone, VoiceOver lowers the sound level of any background noise or music when it needs to tell you something.

  • VoiceOver can speak to you in 36 languages. Whether you choose Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, or Russian, your iPad will shoot the breeze with you in your preferred language.

Special gestures for the VoiceOver iPad accessibility feature

VoiceOver uses a series of simple gestures to interact with the iPad. They include the following:

  • Tap once to select an item onscreen and hear a description of it. Selected items appear with a black rectangle around them, called the VoiceOver cursor.

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  • Double-tap to activate it.

  • Drag your finger to move between items onscreen. You’ll hear a click as you move off one item and onto another, and VoiceOver will begin reading the next item.

  • Flick left or right with one finger to move between items. Can’t find an app or a menu choice? You could search for it by dragging your finger around the screen, but you can also simply flick left and right to move the VoiceOver cursor to the next or previous available item.

    By flicking, you can make precise choices without having to physically find an object onscreen. For example, imagine you’re trying to find a specific e-mail in your e-mail app. Keep flicking, and VoiceOver will read each e-mail down the list until you find the one you want. Double-tap anywhere on the screen to open the e-mail.

  • Use a two-finger double tap to play or pause (music, video, speaking).

  • Use a three-finger tap on the home screen tells you how many pages of apps there are and which page you’re currently on.

  • Flick three fingers left or right to move between your different home screens.

  • Flick three fingers up or down to scroll one page at a time.

  • Flick two fingers up to read everything on the current screen, including menus and buttons.

  • Flick two fingers down to read everything from the current position forward.

  • Use a three-finger double-tap toggles between VoiceOver speech off and speech on.

Triple-tapping the Home button can be set as a quick and easy way to toggle VoiceOver on and off. You'll you find the option to turn on Triple-tap Home at the bottom of the Accessibility page.

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You might think of VoiceOver as a function strictly for your students with visual impairment. Everyone has way too much to do these days especially teachers! There’s never enough time to sit and read quietly. Setting VoiceOver to be activated with a triple tap of the Home button enables you to easily call on a digital reading companion whenever you can’t read yourself.

Typing with the VoiceOver iPad accessibility feature

Typing Feedback is on the VoiceOver page. Use that option to set the way VoiceOver responds when a student types something. VoiceOver can speak each character, word, both, or nothing. The default setting is set to have VoiceOver speak each character as it's typed and then the whole word when you finish it by entering a space or punctuation.

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When a student is using the keyboard, VoiceOver speaks each character he or she touches and repeats it again in a different voice to confirm that it was what you wanted. Teach your students to use one hand to select the keys, sliding a finger on the screen to the key they want, and then tap the screen with any finger on the other hand to insert the character in the text.

The rotor is a virtual controller that you activate by rotating two fingers on the screen as though you were turning a dial. It changes the way VoiceOver moves through a document with an up or down single-finger flick.

For example, you might be reading an e-mail, and a single flick reads the e-mail character by character. That makes it difficult to get through the text. Use the rotor and change the flick to read the e-mail text word by word.

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