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iPad Accessibility for Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

The iPad has accessibility tools and options to assist students who are Deaf or Hard of hearing.

These can be accessed via ‘General Settings’ > ‘Accessibility’, scroll down to ‘Hearing’,

 Some of the features the student could use are:

  • bluetooth to connect hearing aids or microphones

  • mono audio (with left and right volume balance)

  • a speech to text function

Scroll further down under ‘Media’, - Subtitles, captioning and audio descriptions are also available.

Students with hearing loss may use a number of assistive devices to access the school curriculum. Use of any technology will vary depending on individual need.

Some may use technology items all the time in class, others may find continual use unsuitable and may choose to use alternatives in combination with New Zealand Sign language.

Information on technology for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can be found via this link:  http://inclusive.tki.org.nz/guides/digital-technology/

Every situation and every student is different. Supporting their learning needs will be different in each case.

Ministry of Education Assistive Technology fund Remote Microphone (RM) hearing systems for students with a diagnosed hearing impairment see: http://www.education.govt.nz/school/student-support/special-education/assistive-technology/make-an-assessment-and-apply-for-assistive-technology/

Many apps are available to support captioning, these can be variations of ‘speech recognition’ technology.

 Speech recognition (SR) technology has a wide range of applications in education, from captioning video, voice controlled computer operation, and dictation.

Speech recognition tools such as Dragon Naturally Speaking; Recogniser HD; Voice Dictation  are reported by various online reviewers as having up to 98% accuracy, however the accuracy of spontaneous speech for real time captioning can produce different results.

CAT has been investigating captioning, speech recognition apps and the default capability on iPad Air. The inquiry explored the accuracy of text (correct words, wrong words and missing words) and suitability of the technology to be used in captioning by students who are Deaf or Hard of hearing.

The following apps were tested in July 2016, using a set script of 140 words (including some Māori words). None of the apps recognised Māori words correctly. The word Māori appeared as ‘mouldy’ or ‘murray’. All apps responded to punctuation cues such as “full stop”, “new paragraph”.

All apps required Wifi to operate.

The tests were carried out in a quiet room using my voice (English /Australian).  In most tests English / British or English /Australian was used.

The iPad was held approximately 3 to 5 centimetres away from the face whilst talking in a normal tone and speed.


iCantHear    Free  


This speech to text app is powered by Nuance (the makers of Dragon and Speech Recogniser).

Internet connection is required or the app won’t work. The app needs to be open on another browser, and on another device, to get started. The URL present on the other device will display the same text message so the student can read the text and respond. Streaming text is not instant (5 seconds delay). Text automatically clears after a short pause in speech. Colour or size of font cannot be adjusted.

This app performed poorly. The speaker needs to speak slowly and clearly one sentence at a time.

Test results: 82/140 correct words. 8 wrong words. 50 missed words.


LiveCaption $5.99


LiveCaption requires Wifi to operate. LiveCaption works in its own environment with its own keyboard.

Tap the microphone icon to commence. Text size can be altered and the text and background can be changed from black to white.

Captioning may not be as accurate with strong accents or children’s voices. LiveCaption will work with most bluetooth voice input devices e.g. headsets and in-ear microphones. LiveCaption can be easily edited and does not record or store voice or text after use. This app performed reasonably well with continued and fluent recording.

Test results: 117/140 correct words. 3 wrong words. 20 missing words

iPad dictation 

iPad Air  Dictation        Free


iPad’s Dictation is rather good at translating voice into speech. Tap the microphone button on the iPad’s onscreen keyboard. A wavy line appears at the bottom of the screen. Start talking.

While testing - at around 65 words, it stopped.

The microphone icon on the keyboard had to be pressed again to continue. Dictation is not available on older iPads (iOS6 below) The default  speech recognition is reasonably good if this is the only Speech recognition tool you have.

Test results:  128/140 correct words. 10 wrong words. 2 missing words

Screen Shot 2016-09-22 at 2.34.01 PM.png 

Speech Recogniser HD $6.99


Speech Recogniser is another product developed by Nuance and far superior to the iCantHear app. This app will translate your speech into more than 40 languages. You can copy your text to other apps and hear translations being read aloud. This APP has a problem of stopping after each paragraph, so you have to tap the recording button again. There is a speech end detection switch in Settings as well as tools to change font and turn on/off sound effects.

Test results: 132/140 words. 6 wrong words. 1missing word. 1 spelling mistake.


Dragon. Free


 Dragon is available in both iOS and Android platforms. This app requires no voice training /profiling. Dragon has no note storage, so you need to screen shot your text if you are wanting to save it and store on the iPad. There is no button to delete all the dictated text so you have to delete using the keyboard. Text stopped after 103 words. The microphone button had to be tapped to continue.

This app performed as the most accurate out of all tested.

Test Result:  136/140 correct words.  4 wrong words (Maori). 0 missing words

Additional information:

NZSL dictionary 

New Zealand Sign Language Dictionary. Free


The New Zealand Sign Language Dictionary contains diagrams and video for over 4,000 words and phrases. All the diagrams are built in to the application so they can be viewed offline. Internet or Wifi are required to view videos.

For more information on Assistive Technology please contact www.cat.help@education.govt.nz

If you have additional information on technology to assist Deaf or Hard of Hearing students, I welcome your contributions.

Many Thanks








Assistive Technology

Assistive Technology

Using technology to support students with disabilities and special learning needs.