Accessible Reading: Using an iPad to support readers with ASN

In this blog, Allan Wilson from CALL Scotland shares the accessibility features available to support reading on a tablet with children and young people with additional support needs.

When I’m at a conference or meeting with parents or teachers, somebody will always ask, “What apps should I get to support a dyslexic child?”. I usually reply, “Do you know about the support features that are built into iPads and Android tablets?”. In almost every case, parents, carers and teachers just aren’t aware of the support features available. This blog post gives detailed instructions for a number of features which you will find helpful and useful on an iPad, and this blog shares information for Android. Explore the image gallery below for helpful screenshots to guide you through each process. 



Text to speak will read out all or some of the text on an iPad screen.

To switch on the text-to-speech feature, tap on the 'Settings' icon, then 'General', then 'Accessibility' (image 1). The features that are particularly useful for people with dyslexia are under speech or display accommodations.

Select 'Speech' and make sure that 'Speak Selection' and 'Speak Screen' are turned on. It is also a good idea to turn on 'Highlight Content', which highlights the words as they are spoken. You will also want to choose a voice to use for reading the text. There are plenty built into the iPad, but sadly no Scottish voice!

Once text-to-speech is switched on, swiping two fingers down from the top of the screen will read the text aloud. The control panel (image 2) lets you pause and restart speech, skip ahead, or go back to a page, was well as vary the speed of reading. Remember that text-to-speech will read aloud all of the text on the screen, including menus or web addresses on web page.

If you only want to read some of the text, such as a ‘hard’ word or sentence, then double tap on the word to bring up ‘handles’ (image 3), which can be moved to highlight the text you want to read (image 4). Once the word or sentence you want to read is highlighted, select 'Speak'. 


Colour Filters

Around one in five people with dyslexia have a condition known as Visual Stress, which means that they have difficulty reading black text on a white background. This can be eased by using a coloured plastic overlay over a page from a book, or by using tinted lenses. The iPad has a feature known as colour filters, which can be found under 'Accessibility' then 'Display Accommodations'. Once you have selected 'Colour Filters', scroll down to 'Intensity' and 'Hue' to change the depth of colour and to adjust the colour (image 5).


Reader View

Most websites are designed to be visually appealing and to show people a range of information, but sometimes this is overwhelming for people with reading difficulties. There are some simple adjustments that can make web pages more accessible. 

Turn on 'Reader View' in the Safari web browser by tapping the four horizontal lines to the left of the web address (image 6). This will remove page menus, links to other pages, adverts, etc. and leaves you with just the basic text and some key pictures. Change the colour scheme, choose different fonts and make the text bigger by tapping on the small and large letters (A’s) to the right of the web address (image 7). This also means that text-to-speech will only read the text in the article, without the distraction of web addresses or links.

Allan Wilson

Allan Wilson is an information officer at CALL Scotland.