Spotlight Text is an app available for iPad that provides some useful features to low-vision readers. The app provides large text on a high contrast background to make the words easier to read. Spotlight Text only reads books from the Bookshare library so people hoping to read books and documents from other sources will be out of luck. Bookshare is a service available to people with print disabilities that allows members to download accessible books. The app integrates seamlessly with the Bookshare's online accessible library allowing members of Bookshare to download over 300,000 books directly to their device.
Once a user has downloaded a book from Bookshare they can set Spotlight Text to automatically scroll through the book at a comfortable pace. Automatic scrolling can be configured to scroll top-to-bottom or left-to-right. Unfortunately, the highest scrolling speed may not be fast enough for speed readers, but average readers should have no problem. Aside from the large high contrast text and automatic scrolling, the app offers text-to-speech playback of books. However, the text-to-speech speaking rate is fixed and there is no options to download additional voices.
If the iPad screen is not large enough for a user it is possible to use Spotlight Text by connecting the iPad to an external display. Users could use a physical adapter or wirelessly display the app using AirPlay and and Apple TV. The app also works with Apple's VoiceOver screenreader.
Despite the large text and Bookshare integration, Spotlight Text lacks many critical features and will likely leave users looking for more. First, Spotlight Text lacks the ability to read any documents besides Bookshare books. If a user wishes to read a Word document or internet article they will not be able to with Spotlight Text. Secondly, Spotlight text lacks many customization features that may be important to low-vision users. Users cannot change the font or the contrast colors. So, if white text on a black background is not preferable then Spotlight Text will not be able to accommodate. Lastly, Spotlight Text lacks any annotation or navigation tools. The app does not support highlighting, full text search of a book, or even table of contents navigation. These limitations may lead to frustration when trying to find a specific part of a book.
With these limitations in mind, Spotlight Text can be a useful tool for some users that do not have alternative reading apps. The omission of certain features makes the app simpler and easier to learn, but at a large cost. The $30 price point may seem expensive because of the abundance of $0.99 apps, but compared with other low-vission reading technologies it may seem more reasonable. However, the lack of customization and lack of reading tools drastically reduces its utility. Not to mention its biggest limitation of not being able to open documents from sources other than Bookshare.
Spotlight Text is available for iPad on the App Store for $30. Click here to download the app.