With the use of iPads in many schools, iOS is an increasingly popular operating system used by school-aged children. Many students are using iPads both at school and at home for educational and entertainment purposes. Especially in this age of technology, mobile devices are being recognized to have capabilities to educate children with special needs. So, how can we make iPads more accessible for individual students?
When recently reading about iOS updates, I learned that iOS 10 has made major gains when it comes to accessibility. This operating system offers an abundance of features for people with varying needs. The iOS platform focuses on the tactile approach for users, and thus, is an alternative way for students that lack in other areas to work through touching.
Features for Children With Visual Impairment
For students with visual impairments, one of my favorite features is Speak Screen. This feature reads the screen the user has open out loud. There are many reasons to use Speak Screen, but one example for using the feature would be if the text size is too small for a student to read. To activate this feature the user turns on Speak Screen and swipes down from the top of the screen with two fingers or asks Siri to turn on Speak Screen. Within Speak Screen, the user can adjust the voice’s dialect and speaking rate. In addition, the user can highlight words or sentences.
Features for Children Who are Deaf or Have Hearing Impairments
There are now hearing aids available that sync with devices such as iPads and offer closed captions and mono audio features. Specifically looking at hearing aids, I’ve found that hearing aids are most beneficial when a student would need to otherwise use headphones. Typically using headphones would require a student to take out their hearing aids, which would prevent them from fully hearing and engaging
in the audio. By being able to connect a student’s hearing aids to an iPad, students with hearing impairments can use their hearing aids as headphones.
In addition, the student would also be able to adjust the volume and control whether the sound occurs in one or both ears. This is a great tool for students with hearing impairments, however, not all hearing aids have this feature. The hearing aids must be Bluetooth hearing aids and are a bit more expensive than the standard hearing aids, so not all families will likely be able to afford this technology, but in the future, these hearing aids might become available to everyone.
Features for Children With Motor Skill Disabilities
For students with motor skill disabilities, iOS offers helpful features such as Switch Control, Siri, Dictation, Assistive Touch, touch accommodations, predictive texts and keyboard assistance. These features make typing easier and minimize the physical movements used while typing. Some of the features mentioned rely on the use of the user’s voice. One example is dictation which is a feature that allows the user to use his or her voice instead of typing. To use dictation, the student would just need to tap the microphone button on the keyboard and speak. The student’s voice is then decoded and turned into text.
Features for Children With Autism or Sensory Challenges
One interesting feature that I’ve used for students with autism is Guided Access. This feature is meant to keep students focused on specific tasks. With Guided Access, a teacher can limit the iPad to stay on one app by disabling the home button. Guided Access is even capable of restricting the keyboard and limiting touch input on certain parts of the iPad screen. This is just one of many features available for students with autism or sensory challenges.