AT Tip of the Week: Using AirDrop

Image of cats with "I see the mouse, but where is AirDrop?" meme

It might seem simple, but not everyone knows about AirDrop. It is a way to share photos, videos, Notes, and PDFs with other Apple devices. Back in the day, you needed a separate app, called Bump.  You would select a photo, turn on the app on both phones, and literally bump them together. With luck, the photo would transfer. Now it is much easier.

What some people don’t know how to do is how to enable AirDrop in iOS 11.  The layout of the Control Center has changed. You can still get to it via the Control Center, however.

On the home screen of your iPhone, swipe up from the bottom of the screen. On the iPad, you can either swipe up from the bottom, or double tap the home button. You will see all the options that you have enabled for the Control Center.  

On the top left, is your wireless control box. On the iPad, the AirDrop icon appears on the top right of this box. Tap to turn on AirDrop and to decide whether to enable AirDrop for contacts alone, or to select everyone.  

Image of Control Center on iPad running iOS 11          Image of AirDrop icon

But what about on the iPhone? When you swipe up, the cellular data icon takes its place on the panel. What to do?  You need to do a long press in the center of the wireless control box. This will open a new window in which AirDrop, as well as your personal hotspot, appear.

Image of control center on iPhone without AirDrop showing          Image of wireless control panel on iPhone running iOS 11

So, what does AirDrop have to do with assistive technology and AAC?  Imagine you are taking screenshots of an AAC user to create a low tech backup book.  If you don’t have a wireless printer, you can AirDrop your photos to another Apple device, such as a Macbook or an iMac (if you have a windows machine, use the Wifi Photo Transfer app!).

You can also start from your photos.  If you have already enabled AirDrop, it will show up as an option when you select a photo to send.

Image of screen with AirDrop option to send a photo.

Since you can AirDrop PDFs, you could share the quick start guide to an AAC user’s device or app.  Share motivational AAC posters that can be saved as the user’s lock screen. Also, if the AAC user saves their writing to the Notes app, AirDrop is one more way that they can share their work.  

What else can be shared with AirDrop?  Map directions, contacts, items in the Files folder, URLs, voice memos, and email attachments. All of these file types have potential uses to support and increase the independence of people with disabilities

How does it work? AirDrop uses Bluetooth and “device to device” wifi to share files.  If you are in iOS 11 and AirDrop is not working, make sure you are signed into iCloud service.  Worried about privacy? The files you send are encrypted using Transport Layer Security (TLS).

A last thought: If you have enabled “AirDrop Everyone”, don’t forget to turn it off again once you’ve finished your work (especially if you commute on mass transit!).

Do you have further ideas for how to use AirDrop?  Leave a comment and let us know!


Kathryn Helland

Kathryn is a certified speech-language pathologist and works with children and adults with complex communication needs. She has been with the TechOWL team since 2015 and is currently working on her doctorate. She would like to examine how to best support AAC users in higher education.

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