Revisiting iPad for the blind and its benefits... And a few questions

Hardware & Accessories

So another slew of apple products have been thrust upon us... A rather lack lustre bunch in my view, barring one... The iPad mini.

I've had iPads in the past, the iPad mini first generation, an iPad Pro and, though I liked them to an extent, they always seemed like an expensive and somewhat cumbersome replica of my iPhone.

Now with the mini coming out, Touch ID which I think is generally the sightless persons preference, but with better stereo speakers in landscape, again I'm tempted. I do have some questions though....

Ironically, I'm actually looking at the air rather than the mini as I'm a writer and the magic keyboard is appealing. The new mini doesn't have the magnetic smart connector for keyboards sadly. I'm looking for, not a laptop replacement as such, but an uncluttered, quick access device to write on and browse whilst not sucking up the juice from my iPhone. I'll then edit at home.

My questions are these:

1. Does scribble yet work with VoiceOver? The prospect of being able to mindfully write out notes is very appealing though, last time I checked, it wasn't something that VoiceOver could deal with.

2. Does the track pad on the magic keyboard work with VoiceOver? I was imagining it would work with click gestures maybe but, again, last I heard it didn't work with VoiceOver.

3. Is multi-tasking good and does split screen work well when interacting through touch?

4. A rather specific one I'm afraid... Are there any accessible terminal/ssh clients for iPad?

5. And just to get the conversation going... What, for you, is the killer advantage over a current iPhone?

I realise it sounds like I'm trying to sell the idea of purchasing to myself... Which is probably right. Also, I do realise the air will be updated at some point to bring it in line with the mini's specs so I'll be holding off unless there is a viable and compact solution for typing on the go without having multiple devices scattered about.

Thanks for your input, as always.




Submitted by Cobbler on Thursday, September 16, 2021

A great and very timely topic, as I too am currently considering giving the iPad a second chance.

I had one for about 6 months a couple years back, which I paired with a nice hardware keyboard in expectation of being able to transfer across much of what I used my Mac for.

Sadly, the experience of editing text with an external keyboard was so painful that I ended up nearly always reaching for my Mac rather than the iPad.

I would love to hear if the iPad - and specifically editing and navigating of long text documents - has improved during my time away, and whether it is possible to be productive with an iPad as a VoiceOver user.

So, all of that to offer nothing in response to the OP, but only to say +1 hoping for some great feedback.

Submitted by tyler chambliss on Thursday, September 16, 2021

Club AppleVis Member

So, yeah. I love my iPad pro. No, the track pad doesn't use the same swipe gestures that you'd expect, but explore by touch works if you drag your finger around, but it's not reliable. As for the keyboard, there's currently a really annoying issue with any keyboard that uses the smmart connector where when using VO it doesn't stay locked. It acts like you've pressed the sleep wake button every thirty seconds, causing VO to announce the time over and over again. And no, we still have to use the app switcher or command tab to multi task. Unfortunately they've made it so on iPads only at least, you can't command tab until you've gone to the home screen, at least on the iPhone, you can command tab anywhere.

Submitted by zeirus-fr on Thursday, September 16, 2021

I am using my device enough for a long time.
With braille on screen input it is easy to type a lot and fast.
To study languages is very interesting and useful especially Chinese and Japanese language but without braille input.
Duolingo is very accessible though i can use for that purpose my laptop, too.
But iPad means a great portability for me.
A lot of dictionaries and materials can be saved on my iPad.
I didn't mention reading possibities.

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Thursday, September 16, 2021

In reply to by tyler chambliss

Can I just clarify your last point... Are you saying you can't alt tab on iPad between apps any more? You certainly can't do it on iPhone though there is VO, shift [, ], as a rather slow and clumsy option.

Thanks for the info about the trackpad.

Sounds like the magic keyboard or smart folio keyboard are a bit of a headache suggesting that the mini might be better with a bluetooth keyboard.

Though, if there is no command tab for app cycling, that might be a deal breaker...

At least with using my Magic Keyboard with Number Pad, the Command+Tab/Command+Shift+Tab keystrokes works as expected, along with Command+Tilda/Command+Shift+Tilda which doesd the same thing.


You can Minimize apps found with in the Command+tab rotor, by pressing Command+Q while an app is in focus. This does not force-quit an app found among the Apps Switcher.

Submitted by Yvonnezed on Friday, September 17, 2021

First, the easy one. The three terminal/SSH type apps I use are a-Shell, iSH, and secure shellfish.

The first two are terminal type apps, you ssh with them using the ssh command. Shellfish is more oriented towards using files on remote devices, but it has a very good terminal as well. They're all good for different things and feelfree to ask me about them. All three developers know about Voiceover and are open to improvements.

As for the iPad itself. I actually think you're probably on the right track with the Air over the Mini. As someone who uses an iPad as an iPad and *not* a giant iPhone, I actually suspect the screen might be a bit small. For a VO user, kind of the worst of both worlds, too big to be used as a phone but too cramped to be used as an iPad. This is just a guess, I haven't actually used a mini in years, not since I got my 9.7 pro 5 years ago.

The advice I'll give you is the advice I givve everyone and the advice nobody wants to hear, an iPad is not an iPhone, and it's not a Mac. If you try to use it the same as either of those it will be inefficient and you'll be frustrated, since it's not as good as either that way. You need to spend time learning it if you seriously want to get to the most out of it.

I've been coincidentally reading my old journals from what I got this iPad, and I spent quite a bit of time forcing myself to type on the glass screen, which I'm pretty fast at now, and learning where things are on the screen. For me, this is where the efficiency is and why, even when I'm using a keyboard I use the touch screen a lot, kind of like a giant track pad. I love multi-column apps like mail and net newswire. Flick through headlines on the left, tap, read the article on the right, go back to the the left and keep flicking, none of this going backwards and forwards between screens. I love multi-tasking, I honestly believe it's the first time I've ever truly experienced efficiently using multiple apps at once. I never got it or made it work well on a Mac, I was forever using apps that were hidden behind other windows I hardly knew existed. Things like having my task manager and a calendar on the one screen, or a notes app and a web browser on one screen are great.

And finally, for now at least, if you want to use a keyboard with iOS the iPad is your friend. I don't know why, but a lot of times app keyboard shortcuts *only* work on the iPad. You can attach a keyboard, but I honestly believe most people don't even know this works on an iPhone. There's more, but this comment is already too long.

By no means too long. You've just wetted my interest.

This is exactly what I was looking for and thanks so much for the ssh client recommendations. It's not a deal breaker but I do spend a lot of time messing about with raspberry pis so its a great bonus if I can continue that.

Great point about the screen, though with the new mini it has increased to 8.6 inches so I wonder if there would be much spacial difference between that and your pro? We have the advantage of not looking so much at the all together diagonal but just space for fingers to roam.

Very good point about the placing of the iPad too. I got the pro a few years back and was wanting to replace my MacBook which, of course, was a mistake. It's the advantage of actually having a 2d area to explore, as you mentioned with news apps, that makes such a device shine. ON a phone, even a bigger screened one, it still feels cramped enough for anything but flick gestures.

Very interesting that you talk about typing on the screen. Is that brail or using the software keyboard? I did have a peek at the speed dots solution for the overlay which would give me the home keys. If I could avoid a keyboard for anything but longer writing sessions that would be pretty awesome. Not a big fan of peripherals and the consequential cables... Hence buying and selling two apple watches. Birds nests at the bedside are not a good look... Not that many people do indeed look...

Thanks for your reply.


Trust me, you'll have no problem with yusing your Pie these days, and with some linux type stuff you can even do it on the iPad. I'm using rSync to back up a bunch of data on my iPad to a server, for example, and running youtube-dl natively to download youTube videos.

As for typing, just the software keyboard without even any dots for the home keys, ☺️. Yes, it's frustrating at first and you'll want to throw the iPad across the room, but the only way to get good at it is to do it. I made myself use it without ever picking up a qwerty keyboard for a month. You might not want to go that far, but it was certainly effective.

And again, try not to flick between things too much except when you're actually reading like lists of emails or menus or something. What I tend to do is get very close to what I want, and flick a couple of times to get there. Use the three finger gesture that tells you where you are if you're on a control and then spend some time exploring the screen by touch to find it. Eventually it'll be faster.Oh, and a quick tip, if you're exploring by touch and find the thing you want to activate, leave your finger there and tap with a second finger. I find that's particularly useful sometimes for smaller touch targets.

I'm also considering an iPad as a blind user and had a few questions. Is the iPad OS Voiceover experience more "robust" than the iOS Voiceover, or is it pretty much the same? I've only used Mac OS for a few minutes and VO seemed to be more robust in terms of features, so I figured iPad OS may have more to it than iPhone's Voiceover.
I think I could see the iPad's utility for college classes. Being able to read on one app and write notes etc would be really helpful. Have you found most iOS apps have an iPad OS counterpart?

Submitted by kg6sxy on Sunday, September 19, 2021

I went with a folding iClever keyboard which works great with my iPhone and iPad mini. It doesn't have a trackpad but the size is perfect for travel and it supports hot switching between up to three devices and supports Mac, Windows, and Android on any of the three devices. I've been very happy with it compared to the other keyboard options I had when I had an iPad Air and an iPad Pro 12.9" quite a while back.…

Submitted by kg6sxy on Sunday, September 19, 2021

I still have a lot of trouble with braille screen input on an iPhone and now that I'm moving from an iPhone XS Max to an iPhone 13 mini, I imagine it's not going to get any easier for someone with big hands. My grandfather always said someone with a handspan larger than a full octave should play piano. Braille screen input on an iPad mini is a lot easier due to the extra screen space. But if I'm going to be typing more than a few quick notes, I definitely prefer using my Orbit Reader 20 Plus instead.

This was something I was wondering about. Are you using that in table top mode?

I've been torn between the air and mini but went mini in the end. My view is I could get the bigger screen for touch typing but brailing is easier and mostly quicker plus, if I do want to touch type I can do it still. Anything long hand I'd have to get the keyboard out.

I'd imagine the iPhone mini shouldn't be too bad if you've used any of the eight and lover to brail. I'm assuming you're using screen away? I struggle with it a little too, though it is always when I've deleted something it seems to loose the brail keyboard, something to do with the rotor I guess, still annoying though.

I use tabletop mode for the iPad mini. My typing speed is much faster than my braille writing speed but I try to use braille as much as possible to improve.

For the iPhone, I've tried all the options but stick with screen away at the moment. I really need a lot more practice.

Submitted by Yvonnezed on Sunday, September 19, 2021

I wouldn't say Voiceover support is much different on an iPhone over an iPad. In spite of it being called a different operating system, it's pretty much still iOS for now, at least.

If anything, given how many vo users feel that it's just a bit iPhone, I'm not sure all the iPad specific stuff always gets quite as much beta testing.