The iPad Accessibility Guide

The iPad has settings that make it easier to read and use

A woman in bed using an ipad.
Getty Images / Compassionate Eye Foundation / Siri Stafford

The iPad's accessibility settings can help make it more useful for those with vision or hearing problems, and in some cases, even help those with physical or motor issues. These accessibility settings can increase the size of the default font, zoom in on the screen, and even speak text or activate subtitles and captioning.

These instructions apply to devices running iOS 10 and later.

How to Open the iPad's Accessibility Settings

Here is how to find the iPad's accessibility settings:

  1. Open the iPad's Settings.

    The iPad Settings app
  2. Tap General

    General heading in Settings on iPad
  3. In the General settings, locate the Accessibility option.

    Accessibility setting on iPad
  4. Tapping the Accessibility button will open up a screen listing out all of the options for increasing the iPad's functionality.

The iPad accessibility settings provide vision assistance, hearing assistance, learning-based guided access, and the physical and motor assistance settings. These settings can help those who might otherwise have problems operating a tablet enjoy the iPad.

Vision Settings

The vision accessibility settings can increase the size of text on the screen or read it to you.

Increase Font Size

If you have trouble reading text on the screen, you can increase the default font size by tapping the Larger Text button in the second set of vision settings. This font size can help the iPad become more easily readable.

These settings only work with apps that support the default font. Some use custom fonts, and websites you view in the Safari browser won't have access to this functionality, so using the pinch-zoom gesture may still be needed when browsing the web. You can also turn on Bold Text to default normal fonts to bolded fonts.

Increase font size on the ipad

Text-to-speech

If you would like to activate text-to-speech, tap the Speech option and turn on Speak Selection. This is the setting for those who can clearly see the iPad but have difficulty reading text on it.

Speak Selection allows you to highlight text on the screen by tapping a finger and then speaking that text by choosing the Speak button, which is the far-right button when you highlight text on the screen. You can also tap Typing Feedback to turn on Speak Words, which speaks the words you are typing, or Speak Auto-text, which lets you know when auto-correct fixes your spelling.

iPad Accessibility options with the Speech item highlighted

Zoom

If you have difficulty seeing the iPad, you can turn on Zoom mode. Tapping the Zoom button will turn on the option to put the iPad into Zoom mode, which magnifies the screen to help you see it.

While in Zoom mode, you won't be able to see the entire screen on the iPad. You can put the iPad into Zoom mode by double-tapping three fingers to zoom in or zoom out. You can move the screen around by dragging three fingers. You can also make Zoom mode easier to activate by turning on the Zoom Accessibility Shortcut at the bottom of the accessibility settings.

Zoom in the Accessibility settings on an iPad

VoiceOver

The text-to-speech option is great for reading back words, but if you have trouble seeing buttons or other screen items, the VoiceOver option changes the behavior of the iPad in order to make it more it more accessible. In this mode, the iPad will speak what you tap, allowing the user to navigate via touch rather than sight.

Accessibility options on an iPad with the VoiceOver heading highlighted

Invert Colors and Change Contrast

You can invert colors by tapping Display Accommodations. These settings also include a setting for Color Filters for those who are color blind. The main Accessibility settings also have an option to Increase Contrast which you can use to Reduce Transparency or Darken Colors.

Turn on Smart Invert to not reverse the display colors for images and certain apps. Classic Invert changes colors for everything on your iPad.

An iPad with Classic Invert turned on

Hearing Settings

The iPad supports hearing devices made with the MFi standard, which stands for "Made For iOS." These devices connect through Bluetooth. You can also turn on Mono Audio and adjust the audio balance to the left or right.

Hearing accessibility for video playback is in the Media section under Subtitles and Captioning. You can turn on Closed Captions and SDH in the Subtitles and Captioning section. You can also modify the style of the captions from a transparent background to larger text. You can even create your own style.

Accessibility options on the iPad with the Subtitles & Captioning and Audio Descriptions headings highlighted

The iPad also supports video conferencing through the FaceTime app. This app is great for those with hearing issues severe enough to impede voice calls. And because of its bigger screen, the iPad is ideal for FaceTime.

Guided Access

The Guided Access setting is great for those with learning challenges, including autism, attention, and sensory challenges. The Guided Access setting makes the iPad stay within apps by disabling the Home Button, which you normally use to exit out of an app. Essentially, it locks the iPad in place with a single app.

You can also use the iPad's Guided Access feature with toddler apps to provide entertainment to infants and toddlers, though iPad use should be limited for toddlers under the age of two.

iPad Accessibility options with the Guided Access heading highlighted

The iPad also has great apps designed for those with autism, including ones that help with communication.

Physical/Motor Settings

By default, the iPad already has built-in help for those with difficulty operating certain aspects of the tablet. The digital assistant Siri can perform tasks such as scheduling an event or setting a reminder by voice, and Siri's speech recognition can become voice dictation by tapping the microphone button on the on-screen keyboard.

The AssistiveTouch setting can also increase the functionality of the iPad. This setting provides fast and easy access to Siri. It also you to execute and customize gestures through an on-screen menu.

When AssistiveTouch is activated, a button appears at the bottom-right side of the iPad. This button activates the menu system and can exit to the home screen, control device settings, activate Siri, and execute a favorite gesture.

You can drag the AssistiveTouch button to a new position along the edge of the screen.

An iPad's Home screen with the AssistiveTouch button highlighted

The iPad also supports Switch Control, which allows third-party switch access accessories to control the iPad. The iPad settings allow for customizing the switch control, including fine-tuning and setting up sound effects and saved gestures.

The Touch Accommodations setting adjusts how long you touch the screen before the iPad registers a command. Use this accommodation to ignore repeated touches and to use the initial or final touch location.

People who want help using the Home button can adjust the Home-click Speed setting, which makes the iPad register double- and triple-clicks with bigger spaces between them than usual.

The Accessibility Shortcut

The Accessibility Shortcut lets you assign settings like VoiceOver, Zoom, or Invert Colors to a triple-click of the home button.

The Accessibility Shortcut options on an iPad

Control Panel Shortcuts:

You can also enable accessibility features through the iPad's Control Center. Access the Control Center by sliding your finger up from the very bottom of the iPad. Here's how to customize accessibility controls through this menu:

In iOS 12 and later, you access Control Center on iPad by swiping your finger down from the upper-right corner of the screen.

  1. The iPad Settings app
  2. Choose Control Center from the left-side menu.

    iPad Settings with the Control Center heading highlighted
  3. Tap Customize Controls.

    iPad Control Center settings with Customize Controls heading highlighted
  4. The Accessibility controls you can add to Control Center are:

    • Accessibility Shortcuts
    • Guided Access
    • Hearing
    • Magnifier
    • Text Size
  5. Tap the plus sign next to each option to add it to Control Center.

    Customize Control Center menu with a plus sign highlighted
  6. The controls you add will appear in Control Center next time you open it.