Putting iPad Apps to the Test

by Maurie Hill on June 25, 2010

Maurie with her iPadIt’s been two months since I received an iPad as a gift, and I’m starting to feel comfortable using it on a day-to-day basis.  I’ve already discussed the accessibility features of the iPad, but it I thought it would be helpful to give you an idea of what it’s like using an iPad as a visually impaired person.

Calendar Even with a jumbo calendar nailed to my kitchen door, it’s been tough to keep up to date, what with appointments always changing and the lack of space per day when you use a thick black marker.  The iPad Calendar has absolutely helped me gain control of my chaotic life so I can be at the right place at the right time with all the right stuff.

Photos and Videos Photos and videos are a pleasure to look at on my iPad.  I took a Flip video of my daughter singing “Party in the USA” and transferred it to the iPad.  While out to lunch I shared it with my visually impaired sister, and used Zoom to see my daughters face more clearly.

Email Using the iPad to listen to emails when I’m not at home works for me.  I can write an email using the iPad’s onscreen keyboard.  VoiceOver echoes the characters to me so I can be sure to type the correct letters.

Safari I was reluctant to browse the web on the iPad because I’m not used to using such a small screen with only speech and no magnification.  It would be cumbersome to browse the Internet at 5-times magnification on the iPad, so I knew I would need to rely on VoiceOver.  But I forced myself to try, and I was pleasantly surprised. I now read the local newspaper while on my patio.

Contacts Reading my old, hand-written address book is impossible for me.  All my contacts were transferred to the iPad and are accessible from several apps.

Maps I pride myself in being a good navigator, and a bit of a map-a-holic.  Before a trip, I download a map and directions.  During the trip, I use VoiceOver to read the directions, and use Zoom when I want to look at a particular intersection.

GoToMeeting With this free app, I can attend a company meeting no matter where I am. I can see and hear everything right on my iPad.  I use Zoom to magnify the slide presentation, which works better than sitting in a hot stuffy room where I can’t see the slide presentation anyways.

iBooks This app is also free from the iTunes store and allows you to read and buy books.  The largest font size is about ¼-inch high.  If I turn on White on Black, I can decipher the text, but not easily.  VoiceOver can continuously read the book, but unlike the Kindle and Nook, the text cannot be comfortably read outdoors on the iPad’s screen.

Dragon Dictation With Nuance’s Dragon Dictation app, you can speak aloud and the spoken text appears on screen.  It’s quite accurate, but the app itself is not very accessible.  For instance, VoiceOver will not read the spoken text unless it is placed in an email, and the buttons within the app are not labeled correctly for VoiceOver.

But remember, I am lucky enough to see the screen somewhat – when one of the iPad Accessibility features has shortcomings, I can switch to the other.  For two months I have been using the iPad and learning as I go.  Each app has its own benefits, and some are more visually impaired friendly than others.  But with the accessibility push in society today, I’m hoping we’ll see more accessible apps showing up in the iTunes store soon.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/RDYHLCHMFOBAGNFVL6KIA722RU b y

    Can I ask you a question about the ibooks? When I have tried to use on my ophone the voice over will only read one line at a time.
    So does the ipad just read awjole page or just the whole book?


  • Mhill

    Hi Ben,

    On the iPad, you single tap on any text in the book, then swipe 2 fingers down to start the continuous reading of the whole book. It automatically turns the page when needed. A 2 finger tap is used to pause/restart the reading. It's pretty cool. Try the same thing on the iPhone.

    I have not read a whole book using iBooks and VoiceOver so I can't remark on its consistency or reliability.


  • http://www.capabilitiesinc.biz Justin Blumhorst

    I have a question regarding Dragon Dictation on the iPad. I know what has been an issue for me with installing Dragon Dictate is that the microphone had to be set up different for each location that it was at. Does the iPad have to be set up different for the different locations that it used in?

  • Mhill

    Hi Justin,

    I don't know the answer to that question. I have not used the Dragon Dictate enough to notice that you have to do anything more when you bring it to a new location. I don't think so. Perhaps background noise in the environment you're in is a factor.


  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/RDYHLCHMFOBAGNFVL6KIA722RU b y

    Hey Maurie

    Sorry for late reply. Have have just tested the 2 finger swipe and it works. I am sure it will be good one i get used to constantly hearing the voice but at leat it's working.
    Thanks again for the great help


  • Bob

    I am about to purchase an ipad for my mom who has Macular Degeneration. How has your ipad been treating you since you posted here about a year ago. What programs and websites can you recommend to me.
    Bob Banks
    if you could reply to my email that would be great

  • http://www.aisquared.com Becca Proskin

    Hi Bob,

    Last month, Maurie wrote a post entitled “iPad Accessibility: What’s New” which I think you’ll find helpful as you wait for an email from her directly with any other tips she has to share. Here’s the link: http://www.aisquared.com/blog/2011/04/ipad-accessibility-what%E2%80%99s-new/.


  • Rotpbt

    With one eye and one lens left far far away I have relied on ZoomText for the last four years. Now I have their apps on my iphone and ipad, devices I thought I would never be able to use. Your programs and apps are great and I am in your debt.

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