The iPad Accessibility Guide

A screenshot of highlighted text on an iPad

 The iPad's accessibility settings can help make the iPad more useful for those with from vision or hearing problems, and in some cases, even help those with physical or motor issues. These accessibility settings can allow you to increase the size of the default font, put the iPad in Zoom mode for getting a better look at the screen, and even speak the text on the screen or activate subtitles and captioning.

How to Open the iPad's Accessibility Settings

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

  • First, open the iPad's settings by tapping the settings icon. Find out how...
  • Next, scroll down the left-side menu and tap General
  • In the General settings, locate the Accessibility option. They are located near the top in the section that starts with "Siri" and just above "Multitasking Gestures". 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 cover simply increasing the size of text on the screen to reading that text 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, but these settings only work with apps that support the default font. Some apps use custom fonts, and websites viewed 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.
  • 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 your typing has been corrected 
  • Zoom. If you have difficulty seeing the iPad, you can turn on Zoom mode. Tapping the Zoom button will put 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.
  • Voice Over. 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 will speak what is tapped, allowing the user to navigate via touch rather than sight.
  • Invert Colors and Change Contrast. You can also invert colors by tapping Display Accommodations. These accommodations 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 can be used to Reduce Transparency or Darken Colors. These are all systemwide settings, so they will apply to photographs and video as well as text on the screen. 

    Hearing Settings:

    The iPad supports hearing devices made with the MFi standard, which stands for "Made For iOS." These devices are connected 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.

    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. Learn more about setting up FaceTime on the iPad.

    Guided Access:

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

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

    There are also great apps designed for those with Autism, including apps 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. Siri can perform tasks such as scheduling an event or setting a reminder by voice, and Siri's speech recognition can be turned into voice dictation by tapping the microphone button anytime the on-screen keyboard is displayed.

    The AssistiveTouch setting can also be a great way to increase the functionality of the iPad. Not only can this setting be used to give fast and easy access to Siri, which is normally available by double-clicking the home button, it allows for custom gestures to be created and normal gestures executed through a menu system displayed on the screen.

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

    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, from fine-tuning the control to setting up sound effects and saved gestures. For more information on setting up and using Switch Control, refer to Apple's Switch Control online documentation.

    The Touch Accommodations allow you to adjust how long you can touch the the screen before it is recognized, to ignore repeated touches and to use the initial or final touch location.

    For those who want help double-clicking the home button, the home button can be slowed down to make it easier by going into the Home-click Speed setting. The default setting can be adjusted to "Slow" or "Slowest", each decreasing the time needed between clicks to activate a double-click or a triple-click.

    The Accessibility Shortcut:

    The Accessibility Shortcut is located at the very end of the accessibility settings, which makes it easy to miss if you don't know where it is located. This shortcut lets you assign an accessibility setting such as VoiceOver or Zoom to a triple-click of the home button.

    Control Panel Shortcuts:

    You can also enable accessibility features through the iPad's control panel. The control panel is activated by sliding your finger up from the very bottom of the iPad.  Accessibility settings can be added through the Control Panel settings.

    • First, launch the Settings app.
    • Choose Control Center from the left-side menu.
    • Tap Customize Controls.
    • Accessibility Shortcuts puts a button on the Control Panel to take you to the Accessibility settings.
    • Magnifier is a button that will open the iPad's camera in zoom mode in order to use it as a magnifying glass.
    • Either button can be added by tapping the plus sign to the left of the button.