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Tips for making your iPhone or iPad easier to see, hear and use

Learn about the accessibility settings that can improve the usability of these iOS devices for anyone

Author: Ken Charvoz/Tuesday, June 06, 2017/Categories: Technology, Accessibility


Reachability is a feature available on the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and later models. The larger screens on these smart phones can make it more difficult to type and reach buttons with a thumb without repositioning or using two hands. Reachability moves the screen contents—icons, windows, etc.— to the lower part of the screen for easier access when you double-touch (not double-press) the Home button. The feature automatically turns off with the next touch of the screen or Home button. To activate the Reachability feature:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility.
  2. Turn on Reachability.

Anytime you need to move things closer, just lightly double-touch the Home button.

Apple devices can work with switches and assistive touch devices if interaction with the screen is not an option.

Shake to Undo

Your iPhone and iPad have a handy way to undo typing—just give the device a shake. But if you find that you are unintentionally shaking the phone and disrupting your typing, you can turn it off:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility.
  2. Scroll to Shake to Undo and turn the feature off.

Touch Accommodations

Touch accommodations adjust your device to be less sensitive to inadvertent or repeated touches. You can also set the device to respond to the first or final touch location as follows:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility.
  2. Touch Touch Accommodations.
  3. Turn on Touch Accommodations and set the Hold Duration and Ignore Repeat to your preferences.
  4. Set your Initial or Final Touch Location to your preference.
  5. Adjust Tap Assistance Gesture Delay if desired.

 Touch Accomodations


Visual Voicemail

This feature is still in development, but if your carrier supports it, you can now read transcripts of voicemails you receive. It isn’t perfect, but so far it is pretty good at transcribing standard words (less so at names.) Look for the transcript when you open your phone app and touch Voicemail. If you don’t see a transcript, your carrier may not yet support the feature.

Closed captioning and subtitles

Closed Captioning (CC) adds visual text to describe the full context of a video including descriptions of sounds (like screams and crashes) and music. Subtitles are simply a text version of the spoken word primarily used for translations. (Additionally, subtitles can be useful in noisy environments). On iOS devices, captions and subtitles are turned on together. Captions have preference if both features were included in the media. It is important to note that although CC may be turned on for your device, apps have their own settings that may need to be turned on. For instance, even if you have turned captions on for your device, videos you play on Netflix will not display the captions unless you also turn them on in NetFlix settings. The NetFlix captions will adopt the preferences you select for captioning for your device, i.e., Large, Classic, etc. Your caption settings may not apply to all apps. To turn on captioning and subtitles:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Subtitles & Captioning.
  2. Touch Closed Captions + SDH.

Touch Style to choose the size and colors used for the text-captioning box.

 Closed Captions

You can also create your own custom style using the controls under Create New Style.

LED Flash for Alerts

You can set up your iPhone to provide visual alerts in addition to or instead of audible alerts. This feature uses the camera flash as a visual indicator that you have received a call, text or other alert.

To turn on LED Flash for Alerts:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility.
  2. Touch the LED Flash for Alerts button.

Mono Audio

Mono Audio disables stereo reception so that all audio information is received equally on both left and right channels.

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility.
  2. Touch the Mono Audio button.

You can also adjust the volume to be louder on either the right or left channel by using the L/R slider.

iPhone Noise Cancellation

This feature reduces ambient noise during phone calls so that it is easier to hear the caller rather than the background. To enable:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility.
  2. Touch the Phone Noise Cancellation button.

The Phone Noise Cancellation feature can be helpful, particularly if you are holding the phone to your head.  Some users have reported that the feature has also made it more difficult for people to hear or made their calls sound ‘weird.’  If calls on your iPhone handset sound abnormal, or if you are paired with hearing aids, you may want to turn the Phone Noise Cancellation feature off.

Hearing aids

Made for iPhone hearing aids can be customized from your iPhone (or Apple Watch even.) More than just hearing aids, many can be used to stream music and television, and even used as remote microphones. To find a list of compatible devices, go to

 Hearing Aid



The Magnifier feature uses your device’s camera to magnify and display things on your screen. You can then point your phone or tablet at something small, say text that is too small to read, and view the magnified text on your screen. You can then use the Freeze frame button to take a temporary picture. To turn on the Magnifier:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility.
  2. Touch Magnifier and turn the feature on with the button. You can add the Magnifier to Accessibility Shortcuts for fast access with three presses of the Home button.

There are a number of additional options that make the Magnifier feature really useful. You can turn on the camera’s light, lock focus, freeze the frame (like a photo), or use a variety of color filters to customize the view.

 Magnifier additional features

Home-click Speed

Some iOS features are accessed by quickly double or triple-clicking (pressing) the Home button. Users who have trouble clicking rapidly can slow the speed necessary to perform the clicks by changing the wait time as follows:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility.
  2. Touch Home Button.
  3. Choose Slow or Slowest to increase the time allowed to complete the clicks.


VoiceOver speaks to you, to describe objects like buttons and icons out loud as you touch them on the screen. VoiceOver can also read text like the content of web pages. You can interact with the screen using touch, the on-screen keyboard, or an extensive set of modified gestures. VoiceOver has a great many options beyond those described her.

To activate VoiceOver:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility.
  2. Touch VoiceOver and touch the button to enable the feature and select options.
  3. Drag the Speaking Rate slider to your preferred speed.

With VoiceOver turned on, touch VoiceOver Practice to view a tutorial and practice the gestures you will use with the feature. Some common gestures used with VoiceOver include:

  • Touch: Touch an icon or a selection of text and VoiceOver will read or describe it.
  • Swipe right or left: Select the next or previous item.
  • Two-finger swipe up: Read everything from the top of the screen down.
  • Two-finger swipe down: Read everything from the current position.
  • Double touch: Select (activate) the item.
  • Triple-touch: Opens or launches an app.

Safari Reader

Safari browser users can eliminate lots of web page clutter—advertisements for instance—on pages that have Safari Reader available. When you see the Reader icon '' in the URL box, Safari Reader view is available. Touch reader icon and enjoy a clutter-free reading experience as shown below. Notice how Reader hides the ads, headers, and social media buttons and only the article text appears? Use the font size options '' to adjust fonts to even larger sizes!


Vibration notifications

You can make your iPhone or iPad vibrate to notify you about calls, texts and other actions for different apps. To get started:

  1. Go to Settings > Notifications
  2. Scroll down to find the app you want to set notifications for. Touch to open.
  3. Turn on Allow Notifications.
  4. Touch Notification Sound, scroll to the top and select a vibration pattern (or None.)

To set vibration options for system sounds:

  1. Go to Settings > Sounds and select Vibrate on Ring and Vibrate on Silent.
  2. Scroll down to the Sounds and Vibration Patterns section. Touch any of the apps to open the settings.
  3. Scroll to the top, touch Vibration, and select a vibration pattern (or None.)

Speak Selection and Speak Screen

You can have selected text (text you highlight) or the content of the entire screen read to you using these features. To activate Speak Text and Speak Screen:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech.
  2. Touch Speak Selection and Speak Screen.

You can select an initial speaking rate and if you want text to be highlighted as it is read to you.



Speak Text

Speak Text will add a Speak option to highlighted text:

Text options

Speak Screen

Speak Screen will read the entire screen to you. Swipe down from the top edge of the screen with two fingers to activate:

Speak Screen

Touch turtle icon to slow the speaking rate, rabbit icon to speed it up.


Color display options

There are a number of options to change or invert colors in iOS 10.

To access these settings, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations.Visual disability statistics

Invert Colors

Invert Colors turns white to black and inverts other colors much like a photographic negative. This can be useful if it is easier for you to read white text on a black background. Depending on the colors on the screen, it can also make the screen less bright—a great feature for light sensitivity. Some people use Invert Colors to dim the display for more comfortable night reading. To turn on Invert Colors:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility.
  2. Touch the Invert Colors button.

Color Filters

Color filter settings range from grayscale to various primary color filters and a tinted mode. To access these settings:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations.
  2. Touch Color Filters.
  3. Select from the options shown. Note that there is an Intensity slider at the bottom for all options except grayscale.

Reduce White Point

You can reduce the intensity of bright colors by:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations.
  2. Turn on Reduce White Point.

Use the slider that appears when this feature is activated to control the amount of white point reduction.


Making text and objects easier to see

Some of the first changes you may want to try include making text larger and fatter. You can also make buttons more noticeable and distinct, and increase the contrast of lights and darks on your screen. Here’s how:

Larger text

There are two ways to modify text size. The first is to increase text size using a slider to adjust to your comfort level. The second is to turn on Larger Accessibility Sizes and use the slider to access very large font sizes. To adjust text size:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility and touch Larger Text.
  2. Drag the slider to increase the text size.
  3. To access an even larger set of text size options, touch the Larger Accessibility Sizes button.

Accessibility for larger text

Bold Text

Bolding text can go a long way toward making things easier to see. Use Bold Text and Reduce Motion as a first step toward making your screen easier to see.

Bolding text makes text fatter and easier to see.

This is normal text.
This is bolded text.

To turn on Bold Text:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility.
  2. Touch the Bold Text button.

Reduce Motion

Design changes introduced with iOS 7 included a 3D motion (parallax) effect that, while beautiful, was distracting to some users. You can see the effect of parallax by looking at the Home screen while tilting your device back and forth slightly. The 3D effect makes it seem as though the icons are floating slightly above the background. To turn this effect off:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility.
  2. Touch the Reduce Motion button.

Button Shapes

Button Shapes add a contrasting shaped border to buttons that might otherwise be hard to distinguish. To turn on Button Shapes:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility.
  2. Touch the Button Shapes button.

Button Shapes Turned On/Off

Increase Contrast

There are two settings that you can use to control contrast for the best viewing experience:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility.
  2. Touch Increase Contrast.
  • Turn on Reduce Transparency to make items on your screen more opaque (solid and less see-through.)
  • Turn on Darken Colors to make dark colors more intense.


Zoom is a handy tool anytime you want to look up-close at something. When activated in settings, you can toggle Zoom on and off with a quick double-touch using three fingers on the screen. You can use Zoom in a window or full screen. To turn on Zoom:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility.
  2. Touch Zoom and touch the option buttons you want to enable.
  3. Choose your options:
  • Follow Focus
  • Smart Typing
  • Show Controller
  • Zoom Region
  • Maximum Zoom Level

Zooming in and out

Turn zoom on and off with the 3-finger double-touch. Drag the zoom box around with a finger to look at different areas of the screen. Touch the small bar at the bottom of the zoom window to access settings. You can then use the slider to adjust the zoom level. 


Lockscreen enhancements in iOS 10

Your lockscreen is more powerful and helpful with the addition of widgets in iOS 10. Wake your lockscreen to view notifications, swipe right to view the widget screen, and swipe left to open the camera.

Waking your lockscreen and Raise to Wake

Pressing the Home or power button will wake your lockscreen to view the notifications you have enabled in Settings > Notifications. The new Raise to Wake feature wakes the lockscreen whenever you pick your phone up. It is on by default in iOS 10, but you can also turn it off if you wish. To toggle Raise to Wake on or off:

Go to Settings > Display & Brightness.

Turn on/off Raise to Wake.

Note: Raise to Wake is available only on the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus, and iPhone 7.

Widget screen

Widgets are small functional pieces of apps that provide real-time information without the app being open. In iOS 10, the widget screen contains, by default, Siri app suggestions, recently played music, and upcoming reminders. But you can add widgets from other apps for updates on the news, weather, photos, and much more at a single glance. In the following graphic, custom widgets (on the left) include breaking news from the News app, and recently played stations from the TuneIn app.

Widget Screen 

You can also access the widget screen when your iPad is unlocked. Swipe right from the main Home screen. To customize the widget screen, scroll to the bottom and touch Edit.

Quick camera access

Wake your device and swipe left to quickly access the camera.


iOS voice commands

Voice commands are useful for everyone, but can be especially helpful when vision or dexterity is an issue. Voice commands are enhanced in iOS 10, and more third-party apps, those you download from the App Store, are using the feature. You can now launch far more apps with just your voice, and the list of features is growing. In this article, we’ll introduce you to Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri.

Siri, your Intelligent Personal Assistant

Background noise can confuse voice commands

Siri lets you use your voice to control your iPad or iPhone. Siri can send a message, add an event to your calendar or reminder list, set an alarm, find directions, and search the Internet… all without typing a single letter. Your device must be connected to the Internet to use Siri. Here are the basics:

  • Launch Siri by pressing and holding the Home button. You will hear 2 beeps and Siri will ask what she can do for you. You can also see the Siri greeting on your screen.
  • Speak in a normal indoor voice. The line across the bottom will wiggle to indicate Siri is active.
  • When you finish speaking, you can wait for Siri to sense that you are finished, or touch the microphone icon.
  • Siri will respond audibly and with text with what it thinks you said.   Sometimes, Siri will even prompt you with more questions. For instance, if you tell Siri to set an appointment, she will ask you for the date and time.

Hey Siri

Hey Siri is a feature you can use to launch Siri with only your voice when your iPhone or iPad is plugged into a power source. To enable Hey Siri, go to Settings > Siri and turn on Hey Siri. Siri will direct you to say some phrases in order to recognize your voice. Note that this is not a security function.

Accessing Siri from a locked device

You can access Siri without unlocking your phone or tablet if you have enabled the function in Settings > Siri > Access on Lock Screen.

Some things you can do with Siri


  • Send a text message without typing.
  • Tell Siri to call your contacts that you have defined a relationship with in Contacts. For instance, you can say “call my sister” if your sister is designated as such in the relationship field.
  • Tell Siri to call a person by name in your Contacts.
  • Tell Siri to call a number. Say “dial” and then say the numbers.
  • Navigate to a location with a command. Activate Siri and say “navigate to” and add the location.
  • Read your last unread text message or email. You can even dictate a response.
  • Initiate a FaceTime call. Activate Siri and say “FaceTime” and the name of the person you want to call.
  • Launch an application. Siri can launch most apps. Say “launch” and the name of the app, e.g., “launch Facebook” or “launch Photos.”
  • Set reminders, including location-based reminders. Say “remind me to buy coffee when I leave home” will create a reminder that will trigger when you physically leave your home location.
  • Set alarms. Say “set an alarm for 11am” to create an alarm for that time.
  • Ask questions. Ask what the temperature is somewhere, or what the current time is in another part of the world. Siri can search the web and answer questions or provide websites that might answer your questions.

Using voice in apps

Many apps, including browsers, maps, and other apps with search boxes, often display a voice search icon . Touch the icon to input using your voice rather than the keypad. The illustration below is of the Google Maps app. You can type in a search term, or touch the microphone icon and speak your search aloud.


You can also use your voice to dictate messages, Notes, email—just about anywhere you would use a keypad to type in letters. The Google Maps app shown here is also available for the iPhone and iPad.

Download accessibility manuals PDF


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