iPad tools make literacy accessible for all readers

An iPad isn’t just for playing games; it can be a game changer for readers. The flexibility of text and information on tablet computers makes accessing literacy so much easier for readers, no matter their age or literacy level.

Apple has incorporated many accessibility features into the iPad. Some are obvious and easy to use (for example, using a pinching movement on the screen to zoom in and enlarge text for increased readability) while others require a few steps to activate.

Here are just some of the iPad features that make literacy more accessible to all:


Hearing words spoken out loud can aid comprehension, whether for novice readers or those who have limited vision. Webpages, ebooks and emails can all be read aloud by activating the Speak Selection feature.

 Go to Settings (tap the gear icon)

  • On the left hand menu, tap the choice for General (another gear icon)
  • Now tap Accessibility on the right hand section
  • In the Vision selection, tap fourth choice, Speak Selection to bring up options
  • Slide the button to the ‘on’ position to activate this feature
  • Under Voices, tap to choose a voice and accent (English, United States is the default, but you can choose another accent or language)
  • Set the Speaking Rate by sliding the button from slow (tortoise icon) to fast (hare icon). About a third of the way along from the left hand side is a suggested comfortable, comprehensible rate. However, with this and all the other customizable options, individual preference is always possible.
  • Slide the next button to the on position in order to Highlight Words as they are spoken. This is a useful feature for beginning readers, and readers whose attention can wander during reading.
  • Return to the Home Screen by pressing the Home Button and open some text – whether it is in an app, email, webpage or ebook. Touch your finger to the text until the text is highlighted. Drag the box around the text you want to hear read aloud. Then tap the option Speak that is offered in the dialogue box. If the rate is too fast, or you want to change the voice, return to the settings to make adjustments.

Voice Over

The Voice Over feature functions like a screen reader, speaking aloud the items on the screen. It is a highly customizable option and gives readers the ability to navigate and use features of the iPad even when words and icons cannot be seen.  As with the procedure for Speak Selection, go to Settings – General – Accessibility – Voice Over to configure the iPad to the needs of the reader. Support for Braille displays (which can be connected to the iPad) is available by exploring further in the Voice Over – Braille section.

Vision Features

For some readers, the contrast of black letters on a white background may be difficult to read. The iPad allows the individual reader to invert colors (white letters on a black background) with the slide of a button. Go to Settings – General – Accessibility – Invert Colors to activate this option.

In the same place (Settings – General – Accessibility) there are further options to aid vision; you can select a larger default text size, have bold text and increase the contrast on the screen. 

Auditory Accessibility

Readers who need support for hearing can also customize the iPad. By going to Settings – General – Accessibility – Hearing readers can select subtitles and captioning. By selecting the Mono Audio button a reader with partial hearing loss can convert a stereo signal so that both channels can play out of each earpiece of the headphones. The balance control slider allows the reader to adjust the level between left and right channels.

Comprehension Support

With the built-in dictionary, readers can select a word to be defined. Touch a word until it is highlighted and a dialogue box appears above the word. Touch the middle option (Define) to enable a pop-up that gives the definition of the word. The first time this feature is used, the dictionary may need to be selected (on the lower left hand side of the pop-up box, the option to Manage will give options for the dictionary).

Digital texts, with their flexibility and functionality, have changed the reading game. With accessibility features on devices, no one needs to be sidelined; all have a chance to play and explore literacy!

For more information on Apple’s accessibility features, visit http://www.apple.com/accessibility/