There are iPad and iPhone apps that help you speak better, and apps that speak for you when you can’t. There are apps that claim to sharpen your memory and apps that provide reminders when you’re having trouble. With more than one million apps available, the App Store can help with just about anything you need.
Apple’s mission is to empower everyone, including users with disabilities. That’s why iPads and iPhones are loaded with built-in apps and accessibility features that make them ideal for helping stroke survivors and people with aphasia.
Before you head to the App Store looking for help with expressive and receptive language, check out the accessibility features and apps that are built into nearly every iPad and iPhone at no additional cost. The following native apps and features are especially good for anyone with a speech or language disorder:
For someone who has difficulty reading, being able to hear the words spoken aloud—albeit in a somewhat robotic voice—can dramatically help with comprehension. This can increase the person’s enjoyment of email and the Internet.
For someone who has trouble speaking, it can be very liberating to type messages in advance and then select them to be spoken by the device when needed.
The iPad and the iPhone are preloaded with a text-to-speech feature that provides both of these functions. Speak Selection is a hidden accessibility feature, but it’s worth learning how to use.
To Activate Speak Selection
- Touch Settings.
- Touch General.
- Touch Accessibility.
- Within the Vision group, touch Speech.
- Turn on Speak Selection.
- Turn on Highlight Content.
- Press the round Home button on the device’s frame to return to the main screen.
To Use Speak Selection
When you see text that interests you—whether it’s in an email, on a website, or in a text message—select the text to hear it spoken by the app.
- Touch the text and keep your finger there for a few seconds. A set of two to four dots will appear surrounding the text you’ve selected. The text will be highlighted in blue.
- To highlight all of the text you’re interested in, move the blue dots up, down, and from side to side. When you remove your finger from the screen, several commands will appear above the highlighted text, including Speak.
- Touch Speak. The app will read the selected text aloud.
If the speaking rate is too slow or too fast, return to Settings → General → Accessibility → Speech. Under Speaking Rate, move the slider toward the turtle or the rabbit. Press the Home button to return to the main screen.
Power User Tip: In some apps, such as Notes, iBooks, and Conversation Therapy, you can instantly select a whole sentence or paragraph by tapping with two fingers at once.
The Dictation feature is fantastic for people who have difficulty writing, typing, or seeing the screen since it transforms your voice into text. You can say what you’re looking for in a search engine, dictate an email, or simply state your text message instead of typing it!
To Activate Dictation
Dictation is a built-in feature in the iPad 3 and iPhone 4S and newer devices that usually doesn’t require any setup. If you have one of these compatible devices and the dictation button doesn’t appear on the keyboard, check your connection, then go to Settings –> General –> Keyboard –> Enable Dictation.
To Use Dictation
When your device is connected via WiFi or through a data connection, you’ll see a little microphone icon next to the spacebar on your keyboard whenever you’re in an app that requires you to type.
- Place the cursor where you want your text to appear.
- Touch the microphone icon.
- If the command Enable Dictation appears, touch it to activate the Dictation feature. A grey bar containing a moving horizontal line will appear. On subsequent uses, as soon as you touch the microphone, you’ll see the grey bar with the moving line.
- Say what you want the device to type. Speak clearly and slowly, as if someone is writing what you say. You’ll see your words appear on the screen. They may not be completely accurate, especially if you have a heavy accent or speech impairment, but over time you may get better at articulating clearly.
- When you’re finished dictating, press Done at the bottom of the gray bar.
A step beyond Dictation, Siri is the built-in digital assistant inside every iPad and iPhone since 2012.
To Activate Siri
Press and hold the home button for a second. This will activate the Siri feature. A microphone and a wavy horizontal line will appear at the bottom of the screen.
To Use Siri
Ask a question or give Siri a command. You can ask almost anything, and Siri will search the Internet or other apps for your answer.
You can ask, “What’s the weather today?” or “What’s the capital of Virginia?” or “Where can I get pizza?” You can ask Siri to open apps for you (it’s often faster than looking for them yourself if you have several), type emails, send text messages, or enter appointments or reminders.
For more information about using Siri, check out all these Siri voice commands.
We all know the Maps app is great for getting directions. But did you know it can also be a powerful communication tool?
Many people with aphasia use maps to tell stories. They can show communication partners their favorite neighborhood destinations, where they’ve traveled, and where family members live.
By learning how to zoom in and out of a map (i.e., using two fingers or a thumb and finger to pinch and zoom on the touchscreen), a person with a communication disorder can gain access to vocabulary and reference points.
Like any app or device you want someone with a speech disorder to use, you need to use it for communication, too. This helps the person understand your intent. It also normalizes this type of use for the app.
Built into every iPad and iPhone (beyond the first generation) are both a front-facing camera and a rear-facing camera.
These cameras take photos and record videos. Getting into the habit of taking photos with an iPad or iPhone helps create a wealth of memories and communication references.
You can photograph family members and friends, to help when the person with aphasia has trouble recalling names. You can also take pictures of rooms in the house and contents of drawers, to help when the person can’t find the right words. Record a video of a common routine or saying a phrase to cue the person on how to do it themselves.
It can be helpful to create talking photo albums that tell stories about trips, weekend activities, and life stories. A free app such as Little Story Creator is a powerful communication tool when loaded with your photos and captions.
Many stroke survivors are reluctant to use the phone, because they’re afraid they won’t be understood. Phone calls don’t allow them and their conversational partners to see gestures, facial expressions, and body language, and they may be nervous to rely solely on auditory comprehension.
The iPad and iPhone both have a built-in video chat application called FaceTime. It allows two people to see one another while they’re talking. This makes distance communication more like face-to-face conversation. You can use the app to visit a loved one with a speech disorder and really see how he or she is doing.
Someone with aphasia can often still write or draw to express themselves. They can still do this using FaceTime by holding the paper up to the camera to communicate better.
There’s a broad range of accessibility features on every iPad and iPhone. Settings can also reduce physical and motor challenges or minimize visual stimulation. To learn more, visit iOS: A Wide Range of Features for a Wide Range of Needs.
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