Much has been written about using the iPhone and iPod touch with Voiceover, (Apple's built in screen reader), but not so much about the iPad. So I figured since I was fortunate enough to get my hands on one recently I'd share my experiences with you on the blog.
My first real focused exposure to iDevices was back in march of this year while attending the California State university Centre On disabilities conference commonly known as CSUN. To learn more about this conference go to
The preconference session I attended focused on the iPad 2 and how it was used in the education system to assist those with special needs across the U.S.
So there I was in a room of folks none of whom I knew and being handed an iPad 2 which I also knew little about. By the end of the 3 hour session with the iPad, I was comfortable navigating the touch screen and told myself I'd be getting an iDevice when I got home. Now that I've had an iPhone for a couple months it was interesting to revisit the iPad 2 and compare both devices from an accessibility point of view. So with the background out of the way let's begin.
iPad Physical features
One thing you will notice immediately about the iPad is the slipperiness, particularly if you use it on your lap. This isn't a bad thing, just something you need to be aware of when using it. I would find myself reorienting the unit often as it would change to landscape mode if it shifted slightly. There is a way to lock the orientation so not to worry if you intend to use it this way. Placing the iPad on a flat surface is probably better to start with, as it makes it easier to locate and connect the earbuds and USB doc cable. The connectors are just underneath the top and bottom edges of the device with the earbud jack at the top and the doc at the bottom just like the iPhone. Yay for apple for thinking of consistency across devices. It really aids in learning for those who have vision loss as they don't have to memorize a different layout for each device.
With the iPad in front of you and the doc connector at the bottom let's take a tactile tour of the unit. As you slide your finger to the right along the top edge of the iPad the first switch you find at the top right corner is the lock switch. Moving down the right side you encounter the mute/unmute switch. You can choose to assign this switch to lock the orientation of the iPad in settings if you wish. as you continue to slide your finger down the right edge of the unit just below the mute switch are the volume up and down buttons. The home button is located in the familiar location at the bottom, just above the connector cable, though you will have to open the cover to see it.
Firing Up the iPad
Activating the iPad is as simple as opening the Smart Cover, this is what Apple has named it and you'll soon learn why once you work with it a while. When the Smart Cover is open, the iPad is unlocked and ready to go. Voiceover announces the last app you opened, and once you close the cover you here the familiar "screen locked" message, just like you do on the iPhone.
The Smart Cover itself is a cool idea and rather ingenious. It not only protects the screen, but doubles as a stand so you can adjust the angle of the iPad, either upright or in a tilt position for watching videos, or doing serious gaming. The
Smart cover attaches to the iPad in the correct spot magnetically so you don't have to fiddle around getting it aligned properly. It just knows where to go! The Smart Cover comes in several colours too. To learn more check out
Navigating the screen and working with apps
You will quickly notice as you move around the iPad the vast amount of real estate space and spatial distances between the app icons. This does take some getting used to, especially if you have been using a smaller screen device like the iPhone. My best advice, be patient and work with what you know. Voiceover works exactly the same on the iPad and even though the gestures and locating apps by moving a finger around the screen may take longer in the beginning it is still a fun device to use. If I were keeping this device I would probably invest in a Bluetooth keyboard to make this process faster. Yes, you guessed it, I'm not the most patient person on earth. <grin>
There is one major difference when working with apps on the iPad that I'll point out that might save you some anxious moments. If you go in to settings for example and open General, then sounds, the screen is divided in to two panes or columns. The sounds pane on the right, which you just opened, and the remainder of the general options pane on the left. As you move your finger around the screen, you might easily navigate away from your intended location. The neat thing though is Apple has kept the same sound alerts it uses on the iPhone when moving to a new line alerting you that you have moved away from the pane you wanted to focus on.
I'll insert a screen shot here to illustrate this concept.
In closing, as I've rambled longer than I intended, I think the iPad 2 is a great device to have, particularly if you are a real road warrior and don't wish to take along a PC or braille notetaker. For now at least, the iPhone meets my needs and it will be my everyday iDevice of choice. Now, I must go get more apps before I surrender the iPad back to my boss for the weekend. Happy Canada Day everyone.