The (5) most useful accessibility features on the iPad

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One of the lesser know features of iOS that adds an incredible amount of functionality to the iPad is Accessibility. Unfortunately, not many people are aware of the many benefits gained with Accessibility–and even fewer are aware of how to access them on their iPad even if they wanted to.  For the sake of narrowing the focus of this post somewhat, I decided to list and give a brief overview of what I believe are the (5) most useful features found in accessibility on your iPad.  Obviously, if you have special needs that require assistance to use your iPad, you might have a very different list of features.  Luckily Apple breaks this feature into several sections that include additional help with Vision, Hearing, and Interaction with your iPad.



Speak Screen / Selection

You can have your iPad speak what is on the screen or just a portion of the screen that you have selected.  To activate this feature simply open Settings–> General–> Accessibility–> Speech > Speak Screen or Selection.



Support for Braille Displays

You can use your braille display to input information and to read VoiceOver output when activated on your iPad. For a list of compatible displays, check Apple’s support site.

To connect your braille display first turn on Bluetooth, then go to


Settings–>General–> Accessibility–>VoiceOver–> Braille, and choose your supported display.  Here there are a variety of settings where you can

  • Choose your braille input and output
  • Turn on and select the status cell location
  • Turn on the Nemeth Code
  • Change the braille translation
  • Turn on the onscreen keyboard
  • Choose whether or not you want the page turned automatically



If you have any trouble interacting with your iPad via touch, you can set up your device to receive simplified gesture inputs that can be performed with or without the use of an additional accessories.  Such gestures include the ability to

  • Adjust the iPad volume
  • Capture a screenshot
  • Select the Home button
  • Interact with Control & Notification Center
  • Use multi-finger gestures


To activate these features open your Settings app and select General–>Accessibility–>AssistiveTouch.  When activated there will be a “floating” Home/Menu button that will appear which can be manually located anywhere on the perimeter of the iPad screen. You can also create your own gestures by selecting “Create New Gesture.” When this option is selected, you can tap on the screen or swipe to create a gesture.  If you add a series of gestures, they will be combined into one multi-touch gesture.


Subtitles & Closed Captions

Although subtitles and captions are offered by default in most videos, and can be selected in the iOS Video App, you can also choose special accessible captions if you are deaf or hard of hearing (SDH) when available.  To do this open the Settings app and select


General–>Accessibility–>Subtitles & Captioning.  Next you need to turn on Closed Captions + SDH.  You can also customize some of the settings such as the font, color, size , background color, text opacity, edge-style and highlight.



Guided Access

This is one of my favorites. If you have children who share your iPad on occasion, especially young ones–you absolutely need to learn how to use Guided Access.  The idea behind Guided Access is that you force/restrict the user to stay in the app that is launched on the screen when you hand them your iPad.  You can restrict the user’s time as well as their access within the app via a password you set.  In addition, you can also restrict any and all areas on the screen that you do not want them to interact with–even hardware buttons.  For a more in-depth review of the features found in Guided Access, check out our review.

To use Guided Access go to Settings–> General–> Accessibility–> Guided Access




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