A Book Review that Might be of Interest

Most folks who read this blog are probably used to me reviewing applications or operating system updates. I don’t think I have done an actual book review that I can think of beyond recommending the Take Control series of books by Tidbids Publishing.

I have recently read a book that addresses the iPad specifically and its accessibility from both the educator and parent’s perspective. I found it a very good book and am highly recommending it for you all to spread the word. If you use this in combination with
Jonathan Mosen’s book
on iOS 7, you have a pair of great resources, particularly if you work with students on iDevices or you are a parent of a blind or low vision child who is entering the world of iOS.

The book is called, “iOS Success: Making the iPad Accessible
A Guide for Teachers and Parents, and it is written by a gentleman I have known over the years and many may be familiar with if you have been around the assistive technology field for as long as I have, Larry L. Lewis. It is sold by the National Braille Press and is another winner as far as I am concerned. It is an easy read and does not get overly technical, which, I think, makes it very approachable by both teachers and parents alike.The book touches on all aspects of using an iPad in the classroom or for those working with a student on an iPad. Literally, it starts with the initial setup and walks the reader through exactly how to do it from beginning to end.

In the introduction area, Larry also talks about input methods for the iPad, and even addresses possible funding sources. He also points out the way that iOS use is definitely growing nearly exponentially among the blind and in the classroom as our sighted counterparts are also using iDevices in large numbers. In my experience, this is a particular point that needs to be really emphasized in the area of education, as there are still parts of the United States in which some educators are still stuck in a mindset that dangerously limits the student because the thinking has not progressed beyond 2000.

The book itself is easy to follow and takes the reader through the various aspects of using the iPad and specific accessibility features. Larry begins with talking about the gestures used with VoiceOver and setting up the triple click home option, as well as describing the layout of the home screen and locking the screen orientation. As a trainer, some of this information is not always addressed to clients, though visualization for even a blind person goes a long way to helping them understand how to use the iPad or any iDevice. Extending battery life on the iPad and also keeping the device “awake” for longer periods of time are also subjects that sometimes go overlooked by trainers.

Of course, the use of VoiceOver is the subject for an entire chapter of the book. The topics of locating and opening applications and using the app switcher to closing apps are covered in depth. Additionally, editing text using VoiceOver and taking notes are included in this chapter. Besides the use of the Contact and Calendar apps, Larry also talks about the importance of the VoiceOver Practice area, which is, to me, one of the most important features a user should know, especially in the beginning.

Besides covering VoiceOver with the iPad in depth, Larry also includes a chapter that talks about the other accessibility options and features available on the iPad. Hearing, learning, physical and vision settings are all mentioned and what options one specifically has available to them. Of course, a description of all of the VoiceOver settings can be found, which, again, is very useful. I particularly learned a lot about using Zoom, which, as a totally blind individual, was not a feature that I had known that well.

An entire chapter is also devoted to using external devices with the iPad. This ranges from Bluetooth keyboards to Braille displays with six-key input. Details for pairing is discussed, and a list of keyboard commands for VoiceOver is included, along with Braille display commands. Folks often ask if there is a list of all of the commands that can be used on an external Bluetooth keyboard, and Larry has included such a resource in chapter 4. This is also the chapter where you will find the Braille display information.

The book goes on to cover setting up and iTunes account and using the App Store , as well as finding accessible applications and using iTunes on both Mac and Windows. This includes syncing the iPad, as well as moving applications and using the app switcher. How to create folders, how to delete apps and a discussion about what applications may even be “right” for your student are other subjects discussed in this chapter. An interesting point Larry writes about is the use of the Dropbox application as an alternative to direct syncing with a computer , which, again, was a really useful point as an effective method of getting content onto the iPad or off of it.

Then, browsing online with the iPad is discussed in detail. Particularly, utilizing the rotor is addressed quite nicely in this chapter, which, again, as a trainer, I found quite nice, as Larry includes a few simple exercises for students to try. Besides discussing the use of the iBooks app, the Nook app and the Read2go app are talked about as other alternatives for accessing electronic books for the iPad. Finally, in that same chapter, Larry also goes into detail in using the Mail app on the iPad, as well as the Messages app too.

In chapter 7, the subject of word processing is addressed, and this includes details in using the on screen keyboard and using VoiceOver to track the cursor as well is how to select text with the on screen keyboard and a Braille display. Some app recommendations are also suggested by Larry for word processing. For example, Larry recommends Plaintext or iWriter, and, of course, the Apple Pages word processor. Even the use of math on the iPad is mentioned, another good topic that often comes up in the questions I receive.

Finally, Larry includes some testimonials by younger users and a parent. For those who are teachers and or parents, this chapter is going to be quite interesting and provocative. As someone who didn’t have this kind of technology when I was in school, I was fascinated by the observations of the students and how much the iPad has meant to them. I can hardly imagine what an iDevice would have meant to me in college and in grad school “back in the day”. It really gives you the true picture as to how blind and disabled students are making just as much use of the iPad in the classroom as the non-disabled student population.

I am, of course, summarizing the material in this book quite a bit. As I said, Larry does a fantastic job of presenting the information and goes into significant detail for all of the important areas of the iPad. More importantly, he provides information that is particularly helpful and useful for teachers and trainers of folks who are learning to use the iPad. This is a must read for those of us in that area. All eight chapters should not be skipped over at all.

If you would like to get this book, you can
go here
to purchase it from the National Braille press. You will not be disappointed at all, regardless of whether you are a newcomer to the iPad or an experienced trainer. I know I enjoyed reading it and will keep it handy as a resource in the future.

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