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Athabasca University

Mobile

When accessibility is considered in the design of products many people benefit from it because of its universal appeal in greater view ability, comprehension of content and expression of ideas. The device becomes engaging.

Apple Devices

There are many iOS accessibility features built into Apple devices that can assist with seeing, hearing, writing and ease of touch for controls. To mention a few such as Zoom, colour and font effects including shapes of buttons, hearing aid and vibration settings, caption and subtitle customisation, as well as AssistiveTouch or reachability for physical functionality.

Speech features need to be turned on in Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech. There are 2 methods to use this feature to read any text aloud:

  1. Speak Selection provides a “Speak” tool once you select text Instructions - iOS Speak Selection for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch (PDF - 252KB)
  2. Speak Screen will read all text it finds on the screen when you swipe two fingers from the top to the bottom of the screen.

In Speech settings you can also Highlight Content when spoken and have Auto-text read.

VoiceOver is a complete screen reader built into iOS. It is typically used by someone who has severe vision loss or wants to have all text on the screen read aloud automatically such as menus, errors, and text in apps. Voiceover does change the finger Gestures of the device while it is activated. The text to speech voice included in Apple devices is quite nice and is customizable in Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver. VoiceOver can read many semantic items when they are built into pages such as headings, form controls, ARIA landmark regions, links, lists, tables and more. An iOS device can also connect to a refreshable braille display and VoiceOver controls the text that is converted to Braille.

App Matrix - This is a compilation of many apps for Apple mobile devices that AU students with disabilities find useful. There are apps for time management, reading text, annotating, flash cards and more.

Android Devices

Since the release of Android 4.3 there have been a variety of improved accessibility features built into Android mobile OS such as TalkBack a functional screen reader, Magnification Gestures for zooming any screen, Invert Colour or change font features, and support for multimedia captions when they are provided.

You can easily access any feature by using the Power Switch Shortcut Key to toggle on or off various settings

Reading apps are very popular to have text read aloud. This Educators Technology Blog article from 2015 outlines the "4 Best Text to Speech Apps for Android" and is quite representative of current good offerings.

ASD and Published Research

The ASD Assistive Technologist, Carrie Anton and Dr. Linda Chmiliar conducted a research project that is published in various journals including The Journal on Technology and Persons with Disabilities

Findings were related to the use of the iPad as a Mobile Learning Tool for Students with Disabilities in post-secondary education. The iPad Project was very useful in the determination of a variety of apps chosen by students to be the most useful.

As follow up to the research, the iPad project still exists with the informative App Matrix Discovery Tool and the ongoing deployment of ASD owned apps and iPads to students for their use, especially for those who cannot acquire their own devices through funding or other sources.

For more information or to participate in mobile device initiatives, please contact the AU’s Assistive Technologist

Updated September 15 2016 by Student & Academic Services

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