Guide Dogs and iPads come together in new accessibility push

Dog and girl sat down looking at an iPad
(Image credit: TechRadar)

Guide Dogs UK is launching its Tech For All service thanks to a pilot scheme in 2021, which it says will enable the charity to provide up to 2,500 iPads to visually impaired children to take advantage of Apple's accessibility features found in iPadOS so far.

The charity rolled out a scheme in 2021 where around 5,000 iPhone and iPad devices were given to children aged between three and eighteen with visual impairments, which turned out to be a great success for all involved.

While iPadOS 16 brings new accessibility features such as door detection and Live Captions in FaceTime between an iPad, Mac, and iPhone, the charity had been won over by the features currently offered during this pilot scheme. Emma Foulds, Director of Marketing and Strategy at Guide Dogs, explained: “We know from our research how important access to technology is and Tech for All is designed to empower children with sight loss with the tools they need to be more engaged, confident, and keep pace with peers."

Guide Dogs is currently rolling out the Tech For All scheme by offering applications to more children with visual impairments who could own an iPad as well, which can be accessed through this link.

Analysis: Let's see more of these schemes

When it comes to software, accessibility is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It can be invisible to many, but obvious to others, and companies such as Apple and Microsoft are making sure that anyone can use smart devices as well as everyone else.

In gaming, there are discussions as to how text should be displayed in menus and speech bubbles, for example. In iOS and Android, there's been a big push in recent years on how different areas of software could work for users with impairments, regardless of that being motor, visual, audio, or otherwise.

The pilot scheme by Guide Dogs showed that a child's confidence can grow once accessibility is included and, most importantly, acknowledged. The findings revealed that after just four months with an iPhone or iPad, a child’s reported autonomy increased on average by 18%, alongside engagement by 13% and sociability by 5%.

When it comes down to it, it's the confidence that will appeal to children here, and it will be interesting to see if other charities can take advantage of the accessibility features that are available on the devices we use every day. They're there to help those in need, to use the features that most of us use regularly without a second thought.

However, it's an encouraging scheme that's going to help more children, and with the upcoming accessibility features coming towards the end of 2022 with iPadOS 16 and Apple's other software updates, many children are going to benefit even more once these updates arrive.

Daryl Baxter
Software & Downloads Writer

Daryl had been freelancing for 3 years before joining TechRadar, now reporting on everything software-related. In his spare time he's written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', alongside podcasting and usually found playing games old and new on his PC and MacBook Pro. If you have a story about an updated app, one that's about to launch, or just anything Software-related, drop him a line.