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  • Writer's pictureMichelle D Rogers

iPad Apps for Special Needs & Universal Access

Updated: Dec 17, 2022

With the increased use in tablets and hand-held devices, and a quick overturn of digital content online for learning, many special needs students are feeling left behind as new content does not attend to universal access.



Apps that Support Learning for All


Discussions over equal access to education has been a growing, and many instructional design models now include planning for universal access as a part of the course design. For example, it is very important to include voice-to-text or scripts for all videos.

Following are some of the iPad apps that The Higher Colleges of Technology, Abu Dhabi Men's College, has recommended for integration into classroom tech use that aide access to the learning materials for all students. This list was initially recommended and compiled by Tandy Bailey-Seffar at HCT ADMC.

  • Blio - (Low vision, language difficulty, dyslexia) an eBook Reader that adjusts layout, font and images. Blio lets you choose which way to view a book, including single page, dual page, flowed view, or speed reading view, all kept in sync as you read the book. Synchronized highlighting of words and a serial presentation view can assist those with reading disabilities. On iOS 5.0 and above, Blio empowers the visually impaired to do anything that fully sighted users can do, including reading in any of the available views. You can download books you've bought from the Blio Bookstore or add as many free books as you like, in EPUB, PDF, or XPS formats, via iTunes or the web.

  • Color ID - (Low vision) Color Identifier uses the camera on your iPhone or iPod touch to speak the names of colors in real-time. It's an Augmented Reality app for discovering the names of the colors around you. This app offers settings for basic colors or more advanced. It allows low vision students to see even subtle differences in color.

  • Dragon Dictation - (Mobility challenged, language difficulties, dyslexia, hearing impaired) This app is a really, I mean, really, super cool tool. As you speak into the microphone it automatically records the audio and then creates the script. Students could use this in class as well to record the teacher's lecture and would have an automatic voice-to-text recording.

  • Tap Magnify - (Low vision) This app turns a phone or tablet into a magnifying glass, including 6x zoom that is easily adjusted to improve font size for reading and viewing.

  • Web Reader HD - (Low vision, language difficulties, dyslexia) Web Reader HD for iPad uses text to speech technology along with web page content recognition to read web pages to you. You can configure web pages to be read as soon as they are loaded, read pages manually after they are loaded, or use Cut, Copy, & Paste to read only sections of text.

  • Phonics Genius - (Speech impediments, language difficulties, dyslexia) Over 6,000 words grouped by phonics sounds for chilcren ages 1-6, or for ESL students. One of the best ways to rapidly learn how to speak, read, and recognize words is through phonic awareness. This app is specifically designed to help students recognize and distinguish words by sounds. This app is loaded with content.

  • SoundNote - (Hearing impaired, speech and language challenges) SoundNote is the best way to take notes in meetings, lectures, and interviews. It tracks what you type and draw while recording audio, so you'll never worry about missing an important detail. During playback, just tap a word: SoundNote will jump right to the proper time in the audio.

  • Conversation Builder Deluxe - (Speed impediments, Autism, social and communication difficulties, language difficulties, hearing impaired) ConversationBuilderDeluxe is designed to help elementary aged children, or ESL students, learn how to have multi-exchange conversations with their peers in a variety of social settings. The auditory pattern of conversation is presented in a visual format to help students recognize and master the flow of conversation. Students will learn when it is appropriate to introduce themselves, ask questions, make observations and change the subject of the conversation.

LINKS to lists of other apps for special needs children and adults:

  1. http://a4cwsn.com/ - an amazing list of apps for children with special needs. The entire website is dedicated to this topic.

  2. A great list of 40 different iPad apps that can be used with children with special needs (many can also be used with general language learning and ESL students too)

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