How to use the iPad accessibility features for the elderly and impaired

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If you gave a senior family member an iPad as a gift or have a loved one who is impaired and needs a little help with their iPad, AppleToolBox is here to assist! We’ll walk you through all of the iPad accessibility features.

Apple includes settings for vision, physical and motor, and hearing impairments to make sure that every iPad owner can enjoy their experience.

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iPad accessibility features and settings

The Accessibility settings used to be contained with the General area of the Settings app on iPad. But as new features were added and existing ones were improved, Accessibility became a section of its own.

Each area we’ll step through is in Settings > Accessibility on iPad. So you can pop open that area and get to what you need quickly.

Vision accessibility features

Starting at the top of the Accessibility section on iPad, you have features for those with Vision impediments.

VoiceOver

You can have your iPad speak items on the screen to you, in a voice you like and at the rate you prefer. Just note that using VoiceOver changes the gestures used on iPad. So make special note of the controls you’ll use moving forward which are right beneath the toggle.

iPad Accessibility-VoiceOver Gestures
VoiceOver gestures

Turn on the toggle at the top to enable VoiceOver and confirm this action by tapping OK. You’ll then see a VoiceOver Practice link appear. Using the practice is a terrific way to see how the feature works.

You can then walk through each of the VoiceOver customization options for speaking rate, speech, braille, rotor actions, and any others you want to use.

iPad Accessibility-VoiceOver
VoiceOver settings

Zoom

You can make the iPad screen larger using the Zoom feature. This can help you read easier or view details better. Again, check out the gesture descriptions below the toggle for zooming in and moving about the screen.

Turn on the toggle at the top to enable Zoom and confirm this action by tapping OK. Once you turn on Zoom, head to the bottom of the screen and move the slider to adjust the zoom level you want to use.

Similar to VoiceOver, you have other settings you can adjust to customize the Zoom, like the region and optional filters, so make sure you have a look.

iPad Accessibility-Zoom
Zoom settings

Magnifier

Using your iPad camera, you can magnify something in your surroundings. There is just simple toggle to enable the Magnifier along with the option to automatically adjust the exposure.

Triple-click the Home button to use the Magnifier any time you need it.

Display & Text Size

While these settings are in the Accessibility section, they are useful to anyone using an iPad. You can easily turn on or off bold or large text, increase the contrast, use smart or classic invert, and choose color filters.

iPad Accessibility-Display Text Size
Display & Text Size settings

Motion

If the effects of icons, text messages, or auto-play videos are bothersome, you can disable each of these in the Motion section.

Spoken Content and Audio Descriptions

Similar to but a bit different than VoiceOver, the features in the Spoken Content area let you decide what you want to hear out loud.

Enable the toggles for Speak Selection to hear text you select or Speak Screen to hear content on the whole screen. You can also adjust settings for feedback while typing, pronunciations, and the speaking rate.

Audio Descriptions has a simple toggle on or off for automatically playing them when available.

iPad Accessibility-Spoken Audio
Spoken Content and Audio Descriptions settings

Physical and Motor accessibility features

If you or your loved one needs more help with controlling the iPad using gestures, touch controls, keyboards and such, head down to the Physical and Motor section.

Touch

If you’ll be using an adaptive accessory or have trouble touching the screen, open the Touch features. Here you can enable AssistiveTouch so you can customize actions, gestures, and pointer devices to your liking.

You can also customize the Haptic Touch and Touch Accommodations, and enable or disable the Shake to Undo feature. In addition, the Call Audio Routing feature is in this section for some reason. This lets you decide where to hear audio when you receive a call.

iPad Accessibility-Touch
Touch settings

Switch Control

Another feature you likely want to turn on and customize if using an adaptive accessory is Switch Control. You can connect your switches and then adjust the timing, keyboard, stabilization, visual features, and more.

There’s a lot to review and customize in the Switch Control section. So if you or your family member will be using an accessory, please take a few minutes to check out each of these options.

iPad Accessibility-Switch Control
Switch Control settings

Voice Control

Did you know you can control an iPad by using just your voice? This includes system commands, navigation, what’s on the screen, dictation, and text editing.

To get started, tap Set Up Voice Control. You can then adjust the additional settings for Voice Control on that same screen like language, custom commands, and feedback.

iPad Accessibility-Voice Control
Voice Control settings

Home Button

Like the Display & Text Size settings in the Vision area, the Home Button section is a place to remember for everyone. This lets you adjust the Home button click speed, press and hold to access Siri, and rest your finger, rather than press, to unlock with Touch ID.

iPad Accessibility-Home Button
Home Button settings

Apple TV Remote and Keyboards

The last two areas in Physical and Motor are for Apple TV Remote and Keyboards.

If you use your iPad as an Apple TV Remote, you can enable a setting to use Directional Buttons instead of swipe gestures.

If you own a physical keyboard, you can grant access to your iPad for it in Keyboards and customize the keys, commands, and appearance.

iPad Accessibility-TV Keyboards
Apple TV and Keyboards settings

Hearing accessibility features

For those with Hearing difficulties, head to this next area of the Accessibility settings.

Hearing Devices and Audio & Visual

If you have a Made for iPhone (MFi) hearing device or sound processor, you can pair it in the Hearing Devices section. You can also enable the toggle for Hearing Aid Compatibility to improve the sound quality.

To enable Mono Audio and adjust the volume balance between the left and right channels, select the Audio & Visual setting.

iPad Accessibility-Hearing Audio
Hearing Devices and Audio & Visual settings

Subtitles & Captioning

The Subtitles & Captioning area of the Hearing section lets you enable Closed Captions + SDH with a simple toggle. In addition, you can customize the style and appearance of subtitles.

iPad Accessibility-Subtitles
Subtitles & Captioning settings

General accessibility features

The last General section in Accessibility gives you options to enable Guided Access, adjust Siri feedback, and configure the Accessibility Shortcut.

Guided Access

Guided Access is a great feature for helping someone focus on a specific iPad app. You can control the features available, assign a passcode, set time limits, and more. If you’re a parent and let your child use your iPad, have a quick look at how this feature can help your family.

iPad Accessibility-Guided Access
Guided Access settings

Siri

If you want to type to Siri instead of talk, hear voice feedback, or disable “Hey Siri” to invoke Siri, you’ll do that here.

iPad Accessibility-Siri
Siri settings

Accessibility Shortcut

Next, you can set up and arrange the Accessibility Shortcut with things like AssistiveTouch, Magnifier, and Zoom. To reorder the list, just tap and drag a shortcut where you want it.

iPad Accessibility-Accessibility Shortcut
Accessibility Shortcut settings

A better iPad experience for the elderly and impaired

As you can see, there are many accessibility features available for iPad. Whether you or your family member need a lot of assistance or just a little, the changes you make are sure to improve the overall iPad experience.

Are there any iPad accessibility features that you think are missing or could be improved further? Let us know your thoughts on the accessibility settings for iPad.

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