Apple Pencil for iPad? I’m intrigued

Hardware and Accessories

Just came across this article on the news app and I am intrigued about this new Apple Pencil. As a blind adult who has recently returned to school to finish my computer information systems degree, I am trying to avoid math classes like the plague because I don’t know how I will solve math problems without being able to use a pen and paper, as I was able to do back in high school. Does anyone know if this Apple Pencil technology is accessible, as in, can I hand write some notes and VoiceOver will recognize what I have written? Any information would be great!



Submitted by peter on Tuesday, March 27, 2018

As a retired physicist who is blind I can tell you that there are tools these days for performing even sophisticated symbolic mathematics using a screen reader and/or braille display.

Look into programs like:

Macsyma - the free symbolic mathematics package
Maple: The commercial package for doing symbolic math that I used as a research scientist

There are also very nice packages which are accessible for doing numerical math including solving equations numerically, working with vectors and tensors, etc. See for example the Matlab program (which I also used).

Generally you will want to use the command line version of these programs since the graphical interfaces may not be accedssible with a screen reader. Also you will want to set the output display to give a 1D format so that everything is written linearly on one line (rather than the usual 2D output which sighted people prefer which would put a subscript on a separate line).

These programs also enable you to produce output that is easily readable for sighted people, thus making it easy to share your results with colleagues.

Many blind scientists also use LaTEx for working with and sharing mathematics. In addition, screen readers such as NVDA and JAWS now parse mathematics written in MathML format so that one can verry easily read and understand large expressions containing lots of subexpressions (many articles in Wikipedia are now written this way).

So don't be discouraged and think it can't be done!


Submitted by Luke on Tuesday, March 27, 2018

I really appreciate the informative and helpful reply, and I shouldn’t be surprised that there is an accessible way to do complex math Mattix. I have actually used Maple back in high school, but I was doing things by sight at that time. Great to know the software is accessible and can run in a commandline environment. I will definitely check those tools out.

I am still curious about this Apple Pencil technology and if it will be accessible for voiceover users. Is it a new technology or is it an existing one they are just re-introducing as part of this new iPad?

Submitted by Greg Wocher on Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The pencil is not a new device. It was previously announce with the first iPad pro a couple of years ago. What is new is that they made it available to use with the lower cost iPads. It is also intriguing to me. I lost my eyesight 15 years ago and I miss using pen and paper at times. I used to be a pen geek in that I collected them. It would be nice if we could use the pencil to take handwritten notes.

Greg Wocher

Submitted by Luke on Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Thanks for that info, Greg! I have progressive vision loss so I also used to have enough vision to write by hand. (OK, technically I could still write something but I certainly couldn’t read it – and I doubt anyone else could either. LOL.) While I am so grateful for all the technology we have today like screen readers, it always feels like there is this layer between my brain and what I’m trying to produce in text. Nothing quite beats the immediacy of a pen in the hand with paper underneath it. If there was anyway I could get that capability back using something like this device, that would be awesome.