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iPod Touch for a Blind Teen: Our Experience

Updated on June 21, 2013

Accessibility & Safety for Older Blind Children & Teens Using iOS Devices

My daughter, a young teen who is totally blind, received an iPod Touch 5G for Christmas this year. Over the next several weeks she and I ran into several accessibility and security concerns that we felt were important for new users to know about, and we decided to share them with you.

While the accessibility features for blind users, make devices like iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch exciting, we learned that these products are designed with pitfalls that can all too easily end up costing parents a great deal of money, especially when a blind child is using the device. It is extremely easy to make accidental purchases and you may or may not be able to get your money refunded.

We are far from knowing everything about the iPod Touch, and all that it can do, both positive and negative. But, we will share our experiences here, and we hope others will also, so that blind teens and their parents can have a great experience using their iOS devices!

Image: iPod Touch 5th Generation

Parental Controls for iPod Touch

Avoid an upsetting situation for you and your teen, by setting parental controls on your child's Apple device.

I spent some time looking for parental controls on the various menus of the iTouch, and was not able to find them. They are buried and called "Restrictions." Here is how to find them:

On the Home screen, double tap Settings --> General --> Restrictions.

At this point you will be asked to enter a numerical code. Make it something easy for you to remember, because you will need this code anytime you need to change the restrictions in the future.

Here is a list of parental controls you may want to set before giving the iPod Touch to your child or teenager.

  1. Installing Apps - Setting this to "off" makes the App Store disappear from the Home screen. Your child will be unable to download any apps, including any free ones.

    We elected to leave this button set to on. My daughter is able to download all the free apps she wants, but any paid apps require my assistance.

  2. Delete Apps - Setting this to off prevents your blind child or teen from accidently deleting a favorite app. We had some trouble with this, and apparently it is common for young children to accidently delete apps. If you cannot see precisely where you are tapping the screen, it can also occur. We recommend setting this to off so that removing apps requires parental assistance.
  3. Explicit Language - I set this to "clean."
  4. Content Ratings - This allows you to control the kinds of music, movies, TV shows and apps presented to your child.
  5. In-App Purchases - Set this to OFF! Unless this switch is on the off setting, your child can very easily tap the screen at the wrong time and download in-apps costing up to $200.00 each! Removing your credit card information does not help, because the app already has your credit card information.

    My daughter accidently downloaded $75 worth of in-apps while exploring various menus using Voice Over. Apple refused to refund these accidental purchases.

    It is important to know that Voice Over will only read the titles of the apps in these menus and will not read the prices unless the Voice Over rotor setting is turned on. I will discuss this later. For now, just turn the In-Apps setting to off and you will be safe from accidental in-app purchases.

  6. Require Password - Set to Immediately! You can also set this to 15 minutes. This makes your credit card information accessible for 15 minutes after an app purchase, so you don't have to keep entering your password again and again. But, it also makes it accessible for 15 minutes if you download an app for your child and then hand the device back to her. She can then download paid apps or in-apps to her device for the next 15 minutes. By setting this feature to Immediately, you avoid potential problems that could arise from this scenario.
  7. Adding Friends - Set to off. A surprising number of apps have social media features. I downloaded what I thought was a simple voice changer app, only to discover pictures of a shirtless adult male on it a few days later. While it is ironic to think anyone could impress my daughter with their huge muscles and tattoos, it is frightening to think of the potential consequences of such interaction.

    Considering the social isolation our blind teenagers often experience, it is safer to set Add Friends to off and prevent unfortunate and unwanted relationships. You will still have the ability to add the friends that your teen knows in real life, but she won't be able to add anyone without your knowledge.

Parental Controls for iPod Touch

See a demonstration of how to set up the parental controls or restrictions on your child's iPod Touch or other Apple device.

Blind Teens Using iPod Touch Poll

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Do you have any additional advice for parents or teachers of blind teens who will be using iPod Touch or other iOS devices?

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