Choosing Technology Part 2: iPad

Welcome to my new series on choosing technology, where I will be sharing my tips on purchasing devices, with a special concentration on students with low vision. I am studying information technology in college right now, but don’t worry, I won’t be using any fancy technology terms. Today, I will be talking about purchasing an iPad.

When the iPad was first released when I was in middle school, my English teacher asked all of the students what we thought of the device, and if they thought we would ever get one. This was before I had ever heard of assistive technology, so the idea of a giant iPod Touch sounded ridiculous to me. I said that I would never get an iPad...and then a few years later, I got one to help me in the classroom, and I can't imagine life without it. Here are some of the things to look for when buying an iPad to determine which model is right for you.

Screen size

iPads come in three screen sizes. The iPad mini measures around 8 inches, the iPad Air measures at 9.7, and the iPad Pro measures at about 13 inches. I chose the iPad Air because it is very portable and I could easily enlarge items.

Storage Capacity

Because I use my iPad for textbooks (read more about textbooks here) and lots of assignments, I decided to purchase the 128 gigabyte storage option. I am nowhere close to completely filling up the device, but it's nice to have all of the extra storage and not have to worry about running out. I would recommend that people buy the largest storage capacity they can.

Think of other devices

When I tried out the iPad Pro at the Apple store, I found that it was heavy to carry around, and the screen size was close to my Surface Pro. I wouldn't be able to balance both devices at the same time, and I don't use Apple apps often enough to warrant having the larger display.

Choosing apps

I will have a full list of all of the apps on my iPad in the coming weeks, and currently have a few app reviews on my blog. Read about five apps that help students with low vision in the classroom here, and browse my iPad category tag for other posts hereRead more about accessibility settings to look for in an app here.

Type of case

It's almost impossible to use an iPad without some type of case. I have a folio-style case (exact model can be found on Amazon here) that allows me to have the iPad at a natural angle.

Should I get a keyboard?

I found that a lot of the keyboards for the iPad had keys that were spaced at an awkward angle or were of low quality. I like the touch keyboard on the iPad, but if I had to use a physical keyboard, I would connect my computer keyboard using Bluetooth.

Adding a stylus

Some people may find it easier to use their iPad with a stylus- my mom uses a small stylus purchased for less than $10 to navigate her iPad. I use the Pencil by FiftyThree (which can be purchased on Amazon here) and it can be used both with and without Bluetooth.

Enabling accessibility settings

I was told at the Apple store that they could enable accessibility settings for a new iPad free of charge, and that most other retailers like Best Buy will offer the same courtesy. However, I have not tested this myself. It takes less than ten minutes to enable settings to make an iPad accessible to low vision- read all about it here.

Adding additional tools

The iPad can support a wide array of assistive technology devices, my favorites being the E-Bot Pro (E-Bot Pro review here) and ScanMarker Air (ScanMarker review here). Double check before purchasing the iPad to make sure that current devices are supported, and that they will continue to be supported in the future.

Should I get insurance?

When I purchased my iPad, I was given the option to insure it for about $200. I chose not to purchase it because I figured I would never do $200 worth of damage to the iPad, and I take very good care of my devices. While I did shatter the screen 4th of July weekend last year, it cost nowhere near that much to fix it.

I love having my iPad and consider it one of the most important inventions of the 21st century, in terms of assistive technology. It can make almost any information in the world accessible to people with low vision, and that's pretty awesome.

Choosing Technology Part 1: Laptop

Choosing Technology Part 3:  Printer

Read more about: Assistive Technology