Accessibility (iPad)

Written by Kara Osmundson

Last published at: March 16th, 2023

Apple has purposefully built many accessibility features into their devices to improve the experience for a wide range of users. Some of the accessibility resources described below are native to the iPad and some are apps that students can download. This is not an exhaustive list. The focus of this article is identifying specific language and reading supports. For a complete breakdown of accessibility features on the iPad, visit the Apple links at the bottom of this page.



How to Add a Language on Your iPad

If you add a language (or change the primary language) on your iPad, you can have text translated and read to you in that language. There is an extensive list of language options from which to choose.



Translation in the Photos App *8th Gen iPads or newer

Your iPad can provide translation in the photos app for pictures and screenshots, including photos of both print and (legible) handwriting. This means students can snap a photo of the whiteboard or an anchor chart and translate the content. The translation can then be copied, saved to Favorites, or opened in the Translate app. (More on the Translate app can be found below.)

Just highlight text in the photo to be translated and the app will generate printed text in the original language and translate to the target language. The app can also read aloud the original text and the translated version. The translation will default to the languages added to the iPad in Settings or to the last used language. You can also change the translation language within in the Photos app.

Translation in the Camera App *iOS 15.1 or above on supported models

You can use the camera on your iPad to translate text in real-time. When you open the camera app you can point at any text, printed or handwritten, and you will see the select button appear in the lower right of the photo image. You can then highlight text and choose translation. Click on the translation to speak aloud, copy, share, favorite, change the target language, or open in the Translate app.

Translation in Safari

You must add a language in Settings before you will see the option in Safari to translate a page. (Directions found above) If a website can be translated, the Smart Search field (address bar) will usually automatically display the Translate button. You can also click on AA in the address bar and check to see whether the Translate option is available. You will only see languages that have been added under your iPad Settings.

Apple Translate App

The Apple Translate app is already on your iPad. Just search and use! You can change the target language within the app. It will always default to the most recently used language. There is also an option to auto-detect the original language. 

When you open the app you will see these icons at the bottom: 

  • Translation 

Speak, type, or copy/paste text to be translated. Once translated, any word can be highlighted (in the original and the translation). You can then choose Speak (word is read aloud), Spell (word is spelled aloud), or Look Up (opens dictionary definitions in a slide over window; X out when finished to return to the translation screen). You can also open the translation in a new window with larger text.

  • Camera 

When you open the camera within the Translate app you can click to see a translation of text (printed or handwritten) in real-time. You can also select a photo from the camera roll and view the translations on the image. Translations can be spoke aloud, shared, or saved.

  • Conversation 

Translate an active conversation. Choose auto translate to continually translate in a text message-like manner. This could be useful for teacher-led instruction or discussions (with clear diction). Click on Favorites to view recent conversations. Here the translations can be spoken aloud, saved, or deleted. You can also highlight any word in either language and view dictionary entries.

There is also a "face-to-face" option which allows for translation between those conversing, presenting the two languages to each speaker. However, keep in mind this is a newer tool and isn't always accurate! 

Please note: The Translate app currently supports only 17 languages. You can view the list of supported languages (as of March 2023) on this website.


Google Translate App

Like the Apple Translation app, the Google Translate App also allows translation in several modes. This content focuses on primary differences between the apps. You can download the Google Translate App from Self Service. Google Translate currently supports translation of 133 languages. You can toggle the languages to be detected and translated.

You will see the following options in the Google Translate app

  • Translation 

In the Google Translate app you can speak, type, draw, or copy/paste text into the text input box. Once the text is translated, options are speak aloud, enlarge, favorite, share, and Google search. When a single word or brief phrase is translated, definitions or alternate translations will also be listed. 

The advantage with Google Translate is the ability to draw (write) words to be translated. In the app settings, you can also change the pronunciation speed and block offensive words. Google Translate also allows you to download a language so you can access translations offline.

  • Camera

Google Lens will allow real-time translation through the camera without taking a photo. Translation will be overlaid the words being viewed (typed or handwritten). If you take a photo the translation can be spoken aloud with the app in its entirety, or you can highlight text to copy, hear, or Google search. While these features are available in the photos and camera app on newer, updated iPads, you can access this feature in Google Translate regardless of the age of your iPad or operating system.

  • Conversation

Google Translate has a face-to-face option similar to Apple Translate. The primary difference is the number of languages Google can detect and translate.

  • Transcribe

This feature will listen and translate audio in real-time similar to Apple Translate's auto translate option. In Google Translate you can toggle between the original and the translation, but you will not see both languages together. The text also appears as one long string as opposed to the text message style you would see in Apple Translate app. You can, however, change the size of the transcribed text.

  • Settings

The Google Translate app has many settings options including slowing pronunciation speed within the app for both original and translated languages. 



Speak Selection

Speak Selection is an iPad setting you can turn on and personalize. Speak Selection allows any text that you highlight (in any app) to be read aloud. In Settings you can choose the voice and the speed at which selections are read. You can also choose for text to be highlighted as it is spoken. Go to the Settings app and click on Accessibility>Spoken Content to access this feature. 

Video: How to Have Your iPad Read Text to You

Natural Reader

Natural Reader is an app that can be downloaded from Self Service. Natural Reader can be used with any website or document, including Google Docs. Natural Reader will read text aloud and highlight the words being spoken so students can follow along. it also supports magnification of text and allows a selection to be downloaded and read offline. 

Click here to learn more about Natural Reader

Microsoft Lens

Use the Microsoft Lens app to scan documents and open them in Immersive Reader. Immersive Reader is a tool developed by Microsoft that can read the screen for you and change the size of text to make it easier to read yourself. Immersive Reader can also highlight different parts of speech to increase the accessibility of texts. You can download the Microsoft Lens app from Self Service. 

Video: Microsoft Lens for Scanning/Reading PDFs


Safari Reader

Safari Reader

Safari Reader can be accessed by clicking on the AA icon in the Smart Search field (address bar) in the Safari app. Reader is designed to improve readability of webpage content. 

Reader strips away any distractions (including ads) and presents simple text. You can change the font, change the size of the font, and change the background color of the webpage for improved visibility.

When on a website, you can click on AA and change the settings for that domain to Use Reader Automatically if you choose.




In the Settings app click on General>Keyboard to Enable Dictation. This will add a microphone next to the space bar on the keyboard. Now anywhere you can type text, you can dictate it. This Apple setting allows you to speak or handwrite your input. The keyboard or tools palette can stay open during Dictation so you can easily switch between speaking, typing, and handwriting to enter and edit text. For example, you can highlight text by touch and replace it by voice.



Additional native (built-in) accessibility features support users with vision, motor, hearing, and learning needs. You can turn those options on or off and create shortcuts to use them by going to Settings>Accessibility on the iPad.

Read More about iPad Accessibility Features

Apple Accessibility Video Playlist