Category Archives: Accessibility

Using your iPad as an accessible camera

We probably all have seen people using their iPad as a camera. With it’s huge screen (compared to a normal camera) it can make it easier to see what you would like to take a photo of.

There a different ways to take photos with an iPad (or other iOs devices). For example, you tap the red button on the screen, or you use the volume up or the volume down button (which acts as a shutter switch when the camera app is open). This last option is quite helpful if you want to press the shutter without touching the iPad to avoid blurred images when you iPad is on a tripod and you have long exposure times: Just use a headset with volume control as a cabled shutter switch. You can even buy cable shutter switches on eBay, etc.

I just discovered a new way: Using Assistive Touch, one of the many accessibility options that come with iOS. Now usually Assistive Touch opens a window in the centre of the screen with the accessibility options (see older post on screen shots with one hand). This wouldn’t help much in making it easier to use this option as an accessible shutter.

But when you change the Assistive Touch options to only one action (increase volume), the assistive touch button that you can place anywhere on the screen, does this action without popping up a window in the middle of the screen. And voila, you have a shutter button you can place on the screen wherever you like.



Step by step instructions:

Open the Settings app and go to General/Accessibility/AssistiveTouch


Tap “Customise Top Level Menu…)


Tap the (-) button until only one icon remains.


Tap the icon to change its action and choose Volume down (or up).


Go back to the AssistiveTouch settings and switch it on. Voila, your shutter is ready to go. The button will just the volume as set and only work as a shutter when you have opened the Camera app. Place it anywhere on the screen where you can reach it best.



Single handed access to the iPad

Gestures PinchMany of users with a disability have only one hand available to interact with their iPad, be it because of a stroke or another disability. Also it can be quite difficult to perform some of the gestures needed for the iPad using the working hand, e.g. the pinch gesture for zooming in and out of images and maps.

Here some tips how to interact with some apps using only one hand and easy gestures:

Zooming in and out (making the display bigger/smaller)

In maps you would normally use the pinching gesture to zoom in and out of the map. Here some tips for one handed, easy alternatives:

Screen shot iOS maps

Using iOS maps you can zoom in (make things bigger) with a one-finger double tap. Zooming out (make things smaller) works with a single two-finger tap. Same works with Google Maps and Google Earth.

Looking at photos you only tap with one finger: one-finger double tab zooms both in and out.

Taking a screen shot

Please take a look at my post on the Skitch app. This allows you to take screen shots of images, maps and websites using an in-app screen button: Taking and sharing iPad screenshots with one finger…

Taking and sharing iPad screenshots with one finger…

Skitch LogoScreenshots are a brilliant method to share information, especially for people with aphasia. However, the standard method to take a screen shot on an iPad requires some dexterity: you need to synchronise two button presses, using both hands – not necessarily and easy task.

Skitch (on iTunes: allows you to easily take a screenshot, e.g. from a website, a photo or a PDF) and then share it using email, Facebook or other means. Here a quick intro on how to use it once you have opened it up:

Screenshot, Skitch interface when first opened
When you open up the app it will by default use the built in camera view to let you take a screenshot (i.e. a photo…). Tap the little photo icon in the bottom right corner to choose a different source.

Screenshot, Skitch, choose source
In order to take a screenshot of a webpage, choose the little compass – this opens a built in web browser.

Now either type in a web address or search, using Google (top left and right text fields). Then use the button at the bottom right to “snap” – take a screen shot.

You can annotate the image using any of the tools on the right hand side. These appear when you tap the little arrow on the right side towards the bottom of the image. Once your done, use the Share button in the top right corner and choose how you want to share, e.g. using your email.

Please let me know how you get on. Any feedback welcome!

Accessible PDFs on the Kindle app

Kindle app iconI recently had to make a physical book that was long out of print accessible for someone using an iPad for single-switch-accessed reading. With the help of a colleague at Disability Services at Dundee University I ended up with a PDF file with embedded OCR information that should allow the reader for example to adjust the font size in the reading app. However, in order to access the underlying OCR information, you need to convert the document into the Kindle format. You can do this by placing the word ‘convert’ in the subject line of the email with the attached PDF that you send to your Kindle app. You can find the app’s email address under Settings in your app – but don’t forget to register the email address you’re sending from on the Amazon website first (under: Your Account/Manage your Kindle/Personal Document Settings/add a new approved email address). Good luck!