Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

The iPad & Students with Visual and Multiple Disabilities: Making it Easier to Get Started

By Faye Gonzalez, TVI & COMS

Student with motor difficulties

The iPad is an awesome tool for children with disabilities, including those with visual impairments as well as other multiple disabilities (MD/VI).  Now you have an iPad – but how do you and your kiddos get started? 

First, change your settings to make it easier for kids with motor difficulties to successfully access the screen.  The iPad has features that are cool for most people, but for our kids with motor issues they can make it really hard and confusing.  For example, if they accidentally swipe left or right, it can switch between open apps.  What’s happening? 

  1. Go into Setting > General > Multitasking Gestures and turn them off.  Now you can’t pinch to close an app or swipe to Photo of switch on iPadswitch apps, but neither can they.
  2. Go to Settings > Notifications > Calendar and turn Notification Center Off.  Now a top-to-bottom swipe won’t accidentally open your Calendar. 
  3. In Settings > Do Not Disturb, set Do Not Disturb temporarily to On if you use lots of alerts that might interrupt the student. 
  4. In Settings > General, set Use Side Switch to > Lock Rotation.  If you slide the small round button on the side of the iPad, the screen will lock and won’t move around when the child is trying to use it.

Photo of iPad mounted on slantboardNext, try mounting the iPad onto a slant board or other raised and angled surface to make it easier to see and touch.  Just put some strips of Velcro on the back to attach it onto a Velcro-sensitive surface (trust me, its ok to put Velcro there – it will come off).  If you are a TVI, try using the new “Small-In-One” board from APH to raise it up.  If you don’t have this particular slant board, try Velcro-ing it to a regular book stand, a lap-tray, or even a large 3 inch binder. 

Now, HAVE FUN! - Faye

Next time – Getting Started with Apps for MD/VI

For related information, see also:   iPads as a Literacy Tool for Learners Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired and iPad Resources from two TVIs


iPad on slantboard stand



Posted by gina silva

Need to understand what you're looking for.

Posted by Charlotte Cushman

A little follow up info

Posted by Christine Griswold

AT info

Posted by Charlotte Cushman

Posted on November 16, 2012
Updated on: January 25, 2018

Previous comments for The iPad & Students with Visual and Multiple Disabilities: Making it Easier to Get Started

Charlotte Cushman commented on December 1, 2016

Thanks so much for this information, Christine!

Christine Griswold commented on November 30, 2016

AT nerd here, the person who posted may be asking that question because several companies have started making wired keyboards for iOS devices. They do not drain the battery like a Bluetooth device. Also there are students with physical disabilities who struggle with direct select and MANY folks who are not aware of the built in accessibility features for touch. AT support is frequently hard to find.

Charlotte Cushman commented on June 9, 2016

We a little confused about what you mean by “can be plugged into a tablet”, as tablets are a touch screen and do not have an external mouse like a computer.  Are you asking for the cursor (located on the screen) to be magnified or an external device to navigate and control the tablet?  There are several ways to enlarge print, zoom, etc. but we have not heard of a way to magnify the on-screen cursor.  Tablets can be navigated/controlled by an external Bluetooth keyboard and braille display. Some apps can be controlled by an external switch.

Let us know more about what you're looking for.

gina silva commented on June 8, 2016

Do you know of a mouse magnifier that can be plugged into a tablet/ipad that a kindergardner with low vision could use in class and at home?