by Rachel Hage
Have you ever witnessed a bunch of kids choose their teammates during recess, and there is one disappointed child standing on the sidelines as no one steps up to the plate to pick him? Nothing perturbs me more than leaving a person out. This is my analogy for the concept of inclusive technology: including all users on a computer, smartphone, and tablet, regardless of their disability. I have been in a myriad of scenarios on my smart devices, when my screen reader will not identify a link, text, or headings. One must take a deep, deep breath before relenting in a task on a website or application with inaccessible content.
Teaching assistive technology is my profession, and my passion. I am blind, and a user of multiple screen readers. Instructing clients who are blind and low vision can be a challenge at times. I am certified to teach both magnification and speech access programs, in spite of my inability to view magnified content on a screen. It is my duty to present, and sometimes research, solutions in helping an individual utilize assistive technology.
Recently, a client signed up for classes with me to learn to use Zoom on an iPad. The client has cerebral palsy, and he controls his wheelchair with a joystick and buttons to maneuver in his surroundings. Not only is my client visually impaired, but he struggles with maintaining control of his hands as a result of tremors. This man, in his mid-30s, would like to learn to use Zoom on his iPad, as his vision recently decreased. Voice Control with the iPad was a near impossible task for him, as he has a speech impediment.
Usually, such classes require teaching the client to locate the accessibility settings, tapping on Zoom, and toggling the Zoom button on. Afterwards, the client learns to take three fingers and performing a double tap on the screen with a drag up to increase the zoom level, and drag down to decrease the zoom level. Unfortunately, my client experienced difficulty in performing the aforementioned steps. He could not execute the three-finger double tap, nor the drag up/down. I attempted to turn on the Zoom controller to help the client try to one-finger touch and drag the left/right slider to zoom out/in; however, he could not perform this gesture either. He can enter the passcode on the iPad to unlock it; however, he cannot steadily control the Zoom gestures. I needed to find him a solution.
There had to be a way to help this man use his iPad. He informed me that he uses a computer with a mouse, but he does not type on an external keyboard. I reached out to accessibility tech support to try to figure out a solution for this gentleman. Most of the accessibility features explored could not cross over. After non-stop digging, the solution arrived. In the latest iOS 13 for iPhone and iPad, one can connect a mouse through Accessibility Settings. Brilliant! Either a wired or Bluetooth mouse connects to the iPad and iPhone with Assistive Touch turned on. Of course, one might wonder how to connect a wired mouse to an iPad or iPhone. The wired mouse plugs into an Apple Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter.
My client independently accessed the Zoom controller on the touch screen with the mouse pointer, and proceeded to move the slider left/right to zoom in/out. In the Assistive Touch menu within Accessibility Settings, one can adjust the size and color of the mouse pointer.
Additionally, I further researched a way in which my client did not need to hold his iPad while sliding the mouse around on a table. AbleNet, Inc. turned out to be another solution. In my recent studies in becoming a Certified Assistive Technology Instructional Specialist, I came across this name in some of my coursework. So I reached out to AbleNet, where I was led to find a cradle and wheelchair arm to hold my client’s iPad in front of him as he used the mouse to play word games, and navigate Safari. Words cannot describe the elation in the client’s voice upon receiving these tools for him to use the iPad with Zoom. He thanked me profusely, and asked to shake my hand. We should all have a chance to partake in the innovations put out into society, regardless of our hindrances. Although the research process to find a solution was somewhat arduous, the result was worth every painstaking minute to help this humble individual.
Where there is a will, there is a way. Never give up! I did not want to turn away training for a student just because there was not a clear-cut solution. Instead, I wanted to go the distance so all can be included in the use of technology. Check out connecting a mouse to an iPhone or iPad while running iOS 13. There are lightning camera adapters available for purchase online. Just make sure you go to turn on Assistive Touch, locate the device (wired mouse or Bluetooth) in the settings, and the mouse pointer will appear. Spread the word to support more accessibility awareness!