Accessibility features on technology devices make it so individuals with disabilities or impairments can use technology in their lives. All devices should have a settings menu where you can find all of the different accessibility features to improve the ease of use for someone. Apple products have a plethora of options to improve the ease of use for all users, disabled, impaired or not. As I was playing with all of the different features, I thought about some specific people who these tools would benefit. In this blog, as I talk about a few of the features, I will also cover some of the disabilities or impairments that would benefit from using these features. I used an Apple Ipad Pro running on iOS 11 to test the accessibility features.
The very first option on the Accessibility menu on my IPad was VoiceOver. This feature acts as a screen reader where every icon, button, or piece of text has the capability of being read. To access an app or push a button, the user must double-click. I found this challenging because I kept opening the wrong app or playing music on accident. I think I was impatient which made it more challenging. My IPad has a keyboard cover attached to it that made navigating with the VoiceOver a little bit easier. I could use the arrow keys to highlight different apps and then touch the screen to open. While testing out the VoiceOver, I found that many of my apps did not support the voice over feature. This came to a surprise to me because I thought that most apps would need to comply with a standard for accessibility.
While I was testing out the VoiceOver features I thought about this being a helpful feature for students with learning disabilities that cause them to be challenged by reading. I have had some students with severe learning disabilities that have made learning to read a significant struggle. It has often caused me to change activities we do because they rely heavily on reading. One student I am thinking of in particular would benefit from using the VoiceOver to help him navigate websites and read the content.
I also thought about it would be a great tool for someone with a visual impairment. The VoiceOver feature would make it so someone who may be blind or nearly blind be able to navigate an iPhone or iPad. Once they learned the gestures and layout of the iPad, they would have more success using the technology.
There are also other tools for visual impairments. When I was exploring, I found ways to adjust the colors for colorblind individuals as well as inverted color settings to make the contrast easier on the eyes. As I played around with sizing and the magnifier, I thought of a girl in one of my classes while I was in college. She was legally blind and read Braille, but she also had a cell phone and used it to text and check Facebook without any voiceover features turned on. On her phone, she had the text size as large as she could make it, then she held the phone about six inches from her face in front of her “good” eye where she could read the letters if they were large enough. The magnifier feature helped her zoom in on fixed size text so she could get it big enough to see. Some devices, such as on the iPad, allow the camera to be used as a magnifier. I thought that this would be a great tool for people who have a hard time reading small printed text. When I was using this feature, I thought about how it would benefit my mother who is always forgetting her reading glasses and holding papers as far away from her face as she can to be able to see it.
I was also impressed by the features for someone who is hearing impaired. On Apple devices, Siri has the option for text input rather than voice. This allows someone who is deaf, or even nonverbal, to use the functions of Siri without ever saying a word. There are options for connecting the device to hearing aids or making the sounds more friendly for those with hearing aids.
I also found the touch accommodations to be interesting and potentially useful. I have a cousin who recently became quadriplegic after a bad car accident. Now when he uses his phone, he has to use a stylus that is strapped to his hand. At first, when he was getting used to using his arms with their new limited mobility, he struggled with touching where he wanted so the wrong app would open up and he would have to start over. But with the ability to change the touch sensitivity, he has been able to make it so his phone only recognizes a touch after he holds it for a certain amount of time.
In education, the accessibility features of technology can help schools give individuals with disabilities or impairments the best education possible. In the readings, Roblyer mentions that as part of the IEP process, students may need a referral for assistive technology. With that process, an IEP team would look at technology ranging from “no tech” to “high tech” to help that individual be more successful in education or life in general (Roblyer, 2016). The accessibility features that are part different tech devices would be a low tech option for general education teachers to help students in their class use technology that is already part of regular routines. Teachers need to have a knowledge of these features so that when they get a student with a disability or impairment, they can come up with solutions for students without having to go through all of the steps to add assistive technology to an IEP. These accessibility features can make it so everyone can have access to technology and education.
Roblyer, M. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching. 7th ed. Pearson Education.