Accessibility Options on Your iPad - dummies

Accessibility Options on Your iPad

By Edward C. Baig, Bob LeVitus

The Accessibility or Universal Access Features tools on your iPad are targeted at helping people with certain disabilities, but feel free to explore the various choices on your own.


The VoiceOver screen reader describes aloud what’s on the screen. It can read email messages, web pages, and more. With VoiceOver active, you tap an item on the screen to select it. VoiceOver places a black rectangle around the item and either speaks the name or describes an item. VoiceOver even lets you know when you position the iPad in landscape or portrait mode and when your screen is locked or unlocked.


The Zoom feature offers a screen magnifier for those who are visually challenged. To zoom by 200 percent, double-tap the screen with three fingers. Drag three fingers to move around the screen. To increase magnification, use three fingers to tap and drag up. Tap with three fingers and drag down to decrease magnification.

You can tap a Zoom Controller switch for quick access to zoom controls.

The Zoom feature does have a downside: When magnified, the characters on the screen aren’t as crisp, and you can’t display as much in a single view. You can also choose to zoom full screen or zoom only a window. And you can drag a slider to choose your maximum zoom level.

Larger Text

You can make text larger in the Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Messages, and Notes apps. Drag the slider from left to right or from the small A toward the larger A. You can turn on a Larger Accessibility Sizes switch to enlarge the text even more in certain supported apps.

Bold Text

Bold Text is another setting you first met in Display & Brightness. If you don’t think the text on your iPad is bold or bright enough, turn on the Bold Text switch. Doing so requires that you restart your iPad.

Button Shapes

Turn the Button Shapes setting on, and the left-pointing arrow at the top-left corner of the Settings pane disappears and the word General appears inside a pencil-shaped button.

Increase Contrast

The Increase Contrast setting is another effort to bolster legibility. You can reduce the transparency of the screen to improve the contrast on some backgrounds. You can darken colors. And you can reduce the intensity of bright colors. Play around with these options to see whether they make a difference.

Invert Colors

The colors on the iPad can be reversed to provide a higher contrast for people with poor eyesight. The screen resembles a film negative.


With the Grayscale setting, you can eliminate color and go gray.

Hearing Aids

The iPad can communicate with hearing aids through Bluetooth. And Apple has designed a Bluetooth technology for use with custom iPad hearing aids.

Subtitles and Captioning

Aimed at people who are deaf or hard of hearing, the Subtitles and Captioning setting lets you turn on a Closed Captions + SDH switch to summon closed-captioning or subtitles. You can also choose and preview the style for the subtitles and create your own subtitle style.

Audio Descriptions

Toggling the Audio Descriptions switch enables the iPad to automatically play audio descriptions when available.

Mono Audio

If you suffer hearing loss in one ear, the iPad’s Mono Audio setting can combine the right and left audio channels so that both channels can be heard in either earbud of any headset you plug in. A slider control can adjust how much audio is combined and to which ear it is directed.

Speak Selection

When the Speak Selection setting is on, the iPad speaks any text you select. You also find a slider control to adjust the speaking rate. And you can highlight words as they are spoken. You find this option under Speech, along with a Speak Screen button that when enabled lets you swipe down with two fingers from the top of the screen to hear the screen’s content.

Speak Auto-Text

The Speak Auto-Text setting is also found under Speech. When this setting is on, the iPad automatically speaks autocorrections and capitalizations.

Reduce Motion

The parallax effect of icons and alerts is cool. By turning on the Reduce Motion switch, you can reduce the parallax effect and be fairly confident that your wallpaper will remain still.

On/Off Labels

When certain switches are on, green appears. If you turn on the On/Off Labels switch, you’ll still see green, but you’ll also see a nerdy 1 when the setting or switch is turned on or a little 0 when the switch is off.

Guided Access

Parents of autistic kids know how challenging it can be to keep their child focused on a given task. The Guided Access setting can limit iPad usage to a single app and also restrict touch input on certain areas of the screen.

Switch Control

Several controls are represented under the Switch Control setting. The general idea is that you can use a single switch or multiple switches to select text, tap, drag, type, and perform other functions. However, turning on Switch Control changes the gestures you use to control your tablet and are presumably already familiar with. Switch Control makes use of different techniques. For example, the iPad can scan by or highlight items on the screen until you select one. You might want to poke around this setting to examine these and other options.


Turn on the AssistiveTouch setting if you need to use an adaptive accessory, such as a joystick, because of difficulties touching the screen. When this setting is on, a movable dot appears; tap the dot to access certain features, such as Notification Center or Home. You can also create custom gestures through AssistiveTouch.

Touch Accommodations

Touch Accommodations, an iOS 9 addition, lets you customize the touch sensitivity of your iPad. For example, you can change the amount of time you must touch the screen before your touch is recognized. You can also change the duration in which the tablet treats multiple touches as a single touch. And you can enable a Tap Assistance option to allow any single finger gesture to perform a tap before a timeout period, which you can customize, expires.

Home-Click Speed

Tap the Home Button setting to choose a home-click speed. You can slow down the speed required to double or triple-click the Home button, which is next on the list of Accessibility options.

Accessibility Shortcut

Double-clicking the Home button launches multitasking. But you can set up the iPad so that triple-clicking the button (clicking three times really fast) turns on certain accessibility features.