"For visually impaired users, VoiceOver is designed to allow access to the device by implementing spoken descriptions of the touched screen area."
A review of many of the accessibility features incorporated in the new Apple iPad.
Personal computers can be a challenge to the disabled, since they are often designed without special needs in mind. The typical keyboard arrangement is often far from optimum when it comes to such needs.
But a popular new breed of computing hardware, the tablet, may just prove to be much more adaptable than a standard computer layout. Its large touch surface in lieu of a keyboard allows input to be adjusted to fit the need at hand.
In fact, the current most popular tablet computer, the Apple iPad, ships with quite a few accessibility features already built into the unit. These features may prove to be very helpful to many special needs users, and a few might even be of aid to the average user.
Just what are these seven accessibility features built into the iPad? Let's take a look.
1. Interactive Zoom
A feature that might be handy for the average user over the age 45 as well as those with special needs, Zoom makes it easy to make portions of the screen more legible. Unlike pinching the screen while browsing to make the screen larger, the accessibility zoom feature works with any screen element present.
When you activate Zoom, double tapping with three fingers toggles the effect, and dragging with three fingers move you around the screen. You can even combine gestures for finer control. That is, a double tap and a drag lets you minutely adjust the zoom amount.
2. Mail And Notes Large Text
For a lot of users, having larger text in only Mail and Notes without affecting the other apps would be helpful. That is exactly what the large text feature does on the iPad. The large text setting can be adjusted from 20 pt. to a quite large 56 pt. font, which should let most impaired users - and those of slightly advanced age - access their emails and notes without the need of reading glasses.
3. Triple Click Home Key Feature
While most iPad users are accustomed to using the home key in the typical manner, the Home Key can also serve as an accessibility feature when triple clicked. The home key can be set to toggle VoiceOver (which we will be discussing in the next topic), White on Black, or set to simply ask when activated.
Just as it sounds, the White on Black accessibility feature inverts the screen colors, creating a high-contrast display for easier reading. The resulting white text on a black background can also be quite handy for a convenient nighttime reading mode.
4. Interactive VoiceOver
For visually impaired users, VoiceOver is designed to allow access to the device by implementing spoken descriptions of the touched screen area. Gestures built into voice over allow the user additional control through various combinations of fingers and swipe directions. The system is made to be quite forgiving with gestures, but there is a convenient practice area to assure that the motions are correctly used before going "live".
As the user browses the internet, VoiceOver can automatically read the loaded web-pages. For more detail, it can also give a page summary, which can include such information as the header, tables present, links, and more. When it comes to tables in web pages, VoiceOver can navigate them with voice prompts of current row and column along with the cell content.
VoiceOver incorporates virtual rotating dials, known as "rotors", that make it simple for the user to control its functionality. The Web Rotor can be used to navigate web pages in various ways. The user only needs to create a virtual dial with a pinch gesture, and then rotate it to the desired virtual setting. The settings screen (see screenshot above) allows fine tuning of the possible web rotor selections while in use.
Another virtual dial control for VoiceOver, the Language Rotor allows for quick selection of alternative languages. The possible language selections can be adjusted through the use of the language rotor screen, as shown in the screenshot above.
5. Live Typing Feedback
VoiceOver incorporates typing support, with independent settings for the internal on-screen keyboard and a separate Bluetooth connected hardware keyboard. You can adjust the settings to speak either the letter or a word to signify the touched (or typed) letter. For example, selecting the word and hitting the "t" will have the device say "Tango" instead of "t". As an option, you can also select both.
6. Auto-text Correction Announcements
If you desire, the iPad can announce any corrections that is automatically made by the device as you type. This might also be handy for average users, as anyone that has used an iOS device has found mystery words that are forced corrections from typing mistakes. You might be surprised at how often these corrections take place.
7. Adaptable Braille Reader Support
The iPad supports a Bluetooth connected braille reader, which allows a trained user to read any textual components through the use of various device dependent input mechanics. The iPad will automatically compensate and adjust for each model's mechanical characteristics. The user can also custom assign VoceOver commands to reader keys as desired, with a friendly chime to verify that the programing is now complete.
As tablets continue to proliferate, the convenient form factor may find a home with many users in a wide variety of environments. Thanks to its built-in accessibility features, the Apple iPad may be a good choice for a special needs user today, either alone or combined with other special purpose hardware. The good news is that the features might be helpful for users with only slight impairments as well as those with greater needs. Now, excuse me while I go read my emails without the need of my reading glasses.
This is a guest post from TestFreaks (www.testfreaks.com), the world's largest review comparison site with over 10 million reviews and 30 sites worldwide. We help 6 million consumers every month find better product information at our sites.