Accessible and inclusive blended learning – Apple feature overview

Screenshot of Apple Speak feature

In the latest of our series of blog posts on accessibility in blended learning, we’re taking a dive into Apple’s features, looking at what’s on offer and how you might use them in class. 

Who needs these features? Just about everyone

First, some context. According to official UK government published data, 3.3% of pupils in England have EHCP; an additional 12.1% receive SEN support. That’s one in seven pupils, and this number is rising. The most common need for pupils with an EHCP is linked to autistic spectrum disorders (more than 29% of pupils) and the most common need for pupils accessing SEN support is speech, communication and language needs.

According to Mencap, more than 350,000 children aged 0-17 have learning disability, a definition that covers a smaller subset of children and is narrower than SEN. 

There are three potential groups when considering accessibility:

  • Pupils with a statement – a full provision plan of support, often called an EHCP. Most statements are provided to support pupils with autism (more than 29%). 
  • Pupils at school action/school action plus – school has identified an additional need and may have targeted support in place (teaching assistants, pupil on SEN register). Most pupils in this category have a language and communication need (more than 65%).
  • Both of the above groups account for 14% (1:7) of pupils with a diagnosed need.
  • Pupils with no diagnosis. This does not mean there is not a need. They may have an unrecognised need – either temporary, progressive or permanent. This is made up of 86% of pupils.

Some learners may have an undiagnosed need and they may also be unaware themselves. They will be reliant on adults around them to identify their need.

Some pupils/students will have developed coping/masking strategies for their need, perhaps because they are the first person aware of a change in circumstance and are not willing or not sure how this could be shared with anyone else. 

However, it is important to understand that most pupils/students will have some form of additional need at some stage in their education. It could be for a whole range of different reasons, such as changing vision as they grow, a temporary fracture or break or temporary medical intervention such as the fitting of grommets. 

In addition, many of the features that are labeled as ‘accessibility’ features are potentially useful to anyone – who doesn’t need more focus on the task in hand…? And, of course, these are skills that are useful for the modern workplace beyond academic skills.

Apple’s accessibility features – overview

Here’s a brief rundown of a selection of the features you’ll find on Apple devices. They do vary across device type and model and so this page is the essential guide you need for detailed support for different types of device. 

Features for vision:

  • VoiceOver – a screen reader that describes what’s happening on your device so you can navigate by listening and performing gestures.
  • Text size – system wide for partial sightedness, degenerative eye conditions, ease of use and putting distance between screen and eye
  • Zoom –  increases the size of information on the screen
  • Magnification – can be used to increase the size of information of physical objects. It offers benefits for accessing information in worksheets, text books, images and small objects.
  • Changing display – brightness, dark mode, reducing motion for visual comfort
  • Colour filters – changing overlay for visual comfort, reducing eye strain, supporting pupils with dyslexia or visual diagnosis

Features for hearing:

  • Live listen – fine tuning hearing aids or AirPods to hear more clearly during class, or using an iPad’s built-in mic to amplify a conversation 
  • Headphone accommodations – customise headphones ot hearing needs

Features for physical and motor skills:

  • Voice control – navigate a device using voice alone
  • Switch control – assistive technology with built-in features as well as functionality for switches, a joystick or other adaptive devices to control what’s on screen so you can interact with it without touching it

Features for focus:

  • Reader view – removes distracting content, improves tracking, offers multi-modal access to information. Change font, change size of text, change background colour – click on settings for advanced options. Reader view can be made persistent with every page automatically adapting to reader view if possible.
  • Guided access – can enable iPad to lock in single app, such as Notes, Keynote, Pages and disable parts of screen depending on app. If an app’s in locked guided access mode then the usual methods of exiting do not apply (swipe, double click home button, five digit pull)
  • Spoken content – Go from text to speech with Speak screen. Control speech playback with Speech controller. Or use Speak selection to have a specific range of text read to you. Then follow along as Highlight content highlights words or sentences as they’re spoken. 

Coming up

Thursday 20 May is Global Accessibility Awareness day and there’s a whole host of events to mark it, all listed on the Global Accessibility Awareness day website.

Among them is Apple’s virtual event at 4-5pm (BST) to explore the power of the accessibility features built into Apple technology. In this session Apple will demonstrate the key features on iPad and Mac which support each of the accessibility categories — vision, hearing, motor and cognitive. You will hear personal stories about how Apple technology has helped transform people’s lives, helping to inspire and bring equitable education to schools and classrooms — no matter where and how the learning happens. There will be a British Sign Language interpreter available as a guide throughout the virtual event.

Plus, Aspire 2Be is running a four-day accessibility festival from Monday 17 May with 12 online events focusing on the effective use of Apple technology for equity and inclusivity in education. A variety of events will identify theory, tools and tips around Apple accessibility tools to ensure inclusivity and positive outcomes for every learner.

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Upcoming CPD

Summer primary school computing conference
Summer primary school computing conference

This event will build upon the Autumn computing conference by inviting subject leaders to reflect on their year in the role, sharing their successes and challenges. It will also introduce new ideas, tools and approaches through talks and practical activities led by members of the CLC team, with opportunities for attendees to share their own expertise and experience. Over the course of the conference activities will touch on the three main areas of the computing curriculum: computer science, digital literacy and information technology. We will also feature advice and examples illustrating the use of technology to support blended learning.

- 15:30
Computing subject leaders, Teachers...
Creative Arts, Digital and children – CLC meets More Than Robots online
Creative Arts, Digital and children - CLC meets More Than Robots online

Combining forces for the first time, the Connected Learning Centre and More Than Robots have created a session for teachers, youth organisations, researchers and policymakers interested in the digital provision of creative arts for primary aged pupils.


The Play Observatory - Prof. John Potter

“In their own words”: Westminster Abbey & CLC digital projects - Sian Shaw

Building (and maintaining) a city-wide primary arts curriculum to raise attainment - Kate Fellows

More to be added soon

This interactive and inclusive meet up will include inspiring examples of how technology can be used to support learning in music, visual art and drama in person and online at home drawing on our experiences as Tate Exchange associates and our partnership work with a range of cultural institutions.

This informal event is an opportunity to discuss real examples of what does/doesn’t work, meet colleagues from other sectors working on similar challenges and share useful research, news or updates

The morning will include case study presentations (details below) followed by a Q&A. There will also be an opportunity for a rapid sharing round for launches, project updates or requests for help and a short break to avoid zoom brain drain.

- 11:30
KS1, KS2
Subject leaders, Teachers...

Upcoming Special projects

The News Project
- 14:25

Special project in collaboration with First News Education

For a third year, building on two successful previous projects, we are once again partnering with the children’s newspaper First News, fellow member of the national Making Sense of Media and News Literacy networks. This special project with a literacy, PSHE and citizenship, as well as computing focus, highlights our specialist interest in this important aspect of digital and critical literacy.

The News Project will enable participating classes from year 5 to immerse themselves in news and current affairs using First News and the Bett award-winning First News iHUB, which will be provided free of charge during the school-based part of the project over a six week period. Under the guidance of their teacher, pupils will be supported in their development as a community of fully informed news readers. Classes will test their new critical skills and knowledge in the culminating virtual celebration event which will include a news competition and team-based critical literacy and editorial activities. After the event, schools will be able to use the resources from the day in their school.

The project will launch with an introductory CPD session for teachers to set the context, demonstrate resources and to plan for the school-based activities. 

Initial CPD session - Thursday 21st October 4pm-5.00pm. 

Project work undertaken in school - October and November.

Special event - Thursday 25th November 9.30am-2.45pm.

The Garden Museum

The CLC is once again partnering with the Garden Museum to offer a partnership project for KS1 pupils (primarily suited to Yr2). Located next to Lambeth Palace on the bank of the Thames, the museum has an inspiring collection that provides the ideal stimulus for young learners to explore the world around them.

Pupils will use technology alongside the museum’s collection to explore the wonderful world of seeds.

  • How are they planted?
  • How do they spread?
  • What is inside them?

 The Garden Museum has a large collection of seeds and tools that pupils will engage with.

These half-day sessions will take place at the Garden Museum.

There is a limited number of dates available, so please book early to avoid disappointment.

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