Apple Accessibility: The Ultimate Guide

The Apple logo on a glass wall
Photo by Laurenz Heymann on Unsplash

With its iPhone operating system, known as iOS, Apple introduced the first smartphone with a full suite of accessibility features for users with visual impairments, including the Zoom screen magnifier and the VoiceOver screen reader.

Apple Accessibility Standout Features

Apple has a plethora of accessibility features built into its devices. To access the accessibility features on an iPhone, follow these steps:

First off, for users of VoiceOver, touch the screen in various places until you hear the selection you want, then perform a one-finger double-tap to call up the selection.

Open the Settings menu by selecting the Settings icon on the home screen of your device.

Select General > Accessibility.

The first option under Vision in the Accessibility Settings pane is VoiceOver. Toggle VoiceOver on or off using this option.

VoiceOver Screen Reader

You can set up your iPhone with VoiceOver right out of the box when you purchase a new iPhone. You can easily access the device’s magnification settings if you have a visual impairment by enabling VoiceOver.

First, locate the home button. It’s the only button on the front facing side of the phone. Press and hold it down, when you hear the beep, say: “Start VoiceOver.” You have just used Siri to enable VoiceOver. As you will learn, switching VoiceOver on and off on the go is quite handy at various times.

Changing Magnification of the Screen via Pinch-In and Pinch-Out Gestures

The iOS pinch gesture has been around for quite some time and it helps users to magnify onscreen items at will. It’s a pretty handy feature that is especially useful to people who have vision impairments Here’s how it works.

On any element — text, map, image, or photograph, place two fingers on the screen next to each other, as though you were trying to pinch it. As you slide your fingers apart, the screen beneath your fingers will enlarge. Once you have reached the desired magnification, stop spreading your fingers.

As soon as you are done, reposition your two fingers on the glass, this time quite far apart, and pinch them together until the screen has returned to normal.

Although pinching gestures can improve the readability of your iPhone or iPad screen, they may not be sufficient. Fortunately, Apple has developed a number of additional features in iOS to assist low-vision users. These features can be accessed under the VoiceOver control in the Accessibility settings pane.

Invert Colors and Grayscale

Many people with low vision are more easily able to read light text on a dark background than dark text on a light background. Some people find it more comfortable to view a screen where different colors have been replaced with varying shades of gray.Yet, black-and-white photos may be easier to see for some individuals than color photos. In the iOS Accessibility Settings pane, you can choose any of these options. 

Zoom

Zoom,perhaps one of the most important accessibility feature for low vision users, enables a user to magnify their OS device screen up to 500 percent. With Zoom enabled, you can modify the functionality as follows:

Increase/Decrease Zoom. Double tap the screen with three fingers. After the second double-tap, do not lift your fingers, slide all three fingers up or down against the screen to increase or decrease magnification.

Zoom in, Zoom out. Double-tap the screen with three fingers to toggle Zoom off and then back on. You can use this feature to move quickly through a document, then magnify a particular screen.

Speech

VoiceOver can be used selectively-for example, when you are trying to read a long article or when extremely fine print refuses to enlarge.

To explore both use cases, you can enable either of the following:

Speak Screen: You can use this to read an e-mail, web article or other document aloud by swiping down with two fingers from the top of a screen.

Speak Selection: If this option is enabled, the Speak button will appear whenever you select text. You can choose a voice and speed for VoiceOver to read the text aloud.

Contrast Adjustments

People with low vision have an easier time reading a screen with a higher contrast. 

The WCAG 2.0 level AA requires a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text. Furthermore, the WCAG 2.1 requires a contrast ratio of at least 3:1 for graphics and user interface components (such as form input borders). There are several ways to adjust the contrast on iOS:

Darken White Point: With this option you can reduce glare by darkening some white backgrounds. This setting may be preferred by some.

Darken Colors: This setting makes the iOS buttons, sliders, and other controls stand out so they are easier to see.

Reduce Transparency: This option removes most of the translucent effects used by iOS to display notifications and icons on the Home screen so they are easier to read.

Other Apple Accessibility Features

Using the Home Button to Activate Siri

Hold and press the home button, Siri — Apple’s digital assistant will ask what you would like to know or do. Siri will answer questions such as: “Where is the nearest gym?” “What is 10 percent of $55.6?” and ” Siri can also start apps, make phone calls, send and read text messages, and a growing number of other tasks.

Whenever you press the home button on your iPhone or iPad, you will exit from the app you are currently using and return to the last viewed page of your home screen.

Using the Home Button to Access Active Apps

By pressing the home button twice in quick succession, you’ll see a list of the apps you’re currently using, which is a convenient way of switching between apps.

For users who have low vision or who are blind, the triple-click home is a useful command. At the very bottom of the Accessibility Settings pane you will find the Accessibility Shortcut option. This allows you to control what happens when you press the home button three times in quick succession. Among your choices are VoiceOver, Invert colors, Grayscale, and Zoom.

Whenever you triple-click the home button, a specific feature will be toggled automatically. In case you choose more than one option, a triple-click on home will bring up a menu that enables you to easily toggle accessibility features on or off.

Conclusion

It’s common to find yourself using a blend of accessibility features, and the ones you use may vary depending on the way various screen content is formatted, the ambient lighting, and the daily ebbs and flows of your visual acuity. Apple has made changing accessibility features on the fly quite easy.

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