The 7 most useful accessibility features of iOS 8

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From the very beginning, Apple has focused its attention on iOS’s accessibility features. In fact, when one turns on their iDevice for the first time, they can quickly enable two of iOS’s accessibility features to assist in the initial setup of the device. If you want to enable VoiceOver, a feature that will read the contents of the screen out loud, simply press the Home button three times quickly right after taking it out of the box. To enable Zoom, a feature that will make the content on the screen larger, double tap the screen with three fingers.

While these features are essential to the operation of the device for many iOS users, there are some aspects of accessibility that can be useful in almost any situation. Here are a few uses of accessibility that I have found to be most useful:

Useful Accessibility Features

Voice Over for Audible Alerts – Voice Over allows the user to hear what is being presented on the screen. This works not only for text and buttons within apps, but also for alerts and notifications on the screen. This can be a really useful feature when using your headset while walking or jogging or a Bluetooth connection in the car while driving. Voice Over will announce what the message was, who it was from and the first few words of what they said in the message. Basically, whatever displays in the alert or the notification will be read aloud. This includes Twitter and Facebook notifications. To enable this, be sure to switch on Always Speak Notifications when using the Voice Over feature in the Accessibility settings.

Zoom In During a Presentation – There are times when certain images, documents and other media simply will not zoom. This can be frustrating when projecting your iPhone or iPad onto a large screen using AirPlay Mirroring for everyone to see. Zoom is an accessibility feature that enables a magnifying glass to be presented on the screen. Alternatively you can also use a virtual D-Pad to set the zoom region to the entire screen. This can be a good alternative to setting a larger font size by increasing the font size of the text on the device, especially when only on rare occasions do you need to zoom in on a particular region of the screen or increase the text of a specific message.

Using Zoom to Dim Your Screen – Another neat trick that is also part of the zoom feature is the ability to automatically dim your screen. This has a setup process that’s a bit more involved. You first need to turn on Zoom in the Accessibility settings. Then set the Zoom Region to full screen and triple tap the screen quickly using three fingers. This should expose the zoom action menu where Choose Filter is one of the options. Slide the magnification slider all the way down so that the entire screen will be displayed. Then tap on Choose Filter option and set it to Low Light. Now every time that the Zoom feature is enabled the screen will be dimmed to a low light setting. This can come in handy when viewing the screen in a dark room and you don’t want to light up everything around you.

Guided Access for Single App Kid Mode – Guided Access is one of those features that was meant to keep you focused on one app and only one app. By placing the device into Guided Access mode, you can prevent users from navigating away from the app you intend them to use. This can be a great feature to use when handing your device over to a child for occasional use. After enabling Guided Access in the Accessibility settings, open the app you want to limit access to. Triple click the Home button to engage the Guided Access mode. You can even configure what actions are permitted during the activity like adjusting the volume and even set a time limit for the feature. It is even possible to prevent the user from tapping on the screen. Something to consider if all you want them to do is watch a video of view a slide show.

Use the Flash for Message Notifications – If you have grown tired of the various vibration and ringtone alert notifications, or if you would rather see that a message has been delivered to you rather than hear it, then you may want to use the LED Flash for Alerts instead. Also configured within the Accessibility settings, this feature will emit a succession of bright light using the camera’s flash each and every time an alert is displayed on the screen. This can be quite handy after you just got a little one down for a nap and you don’t want to wake them. It also works equally as well in loud settings like a concert where you would never hear your ring tone.

Speak Screen iOS Accessibility

Speak Screen for Emails and Documents – While not exclusively limited to just emails, the Speak Screen feature will read the contents of a screen out loud for all to hear. It is a more specific use that behaves much like Voice Over, but after enabling the feature it can be turned on by simply swiping with two fingers from the very top of the screen.  This can be used in a group setting when you want everyone to hear what was included in an important message. It can also be used to read a document when you have your headset on. It can basically turn almost any written content into an audible book of sorts on the fly. You can even use it to read back to you what you just wrote. That way you can listen to what you just wrote to see if it makes any sense.

Home Button Shortcut to Accessibility – If you ever wanted to have more control over what the Home button does, then setting the Accessibility Shortcut setting is the feature you have been looking for. It can be particular useful when used in conjunction with some of the afore-mentioned Accessibility features. For instance, you can set the Accessibility Shortcut to enable Voice Over when you press the Home button three times. That way you can turn on audible notifications right before you go jogging. Or you can set it to enable Zoom, and by configuring Zoom to dim the screen, you can quickly set up your device’s brightness whenever you enter a dark room.

6 Comments

kennakata

I’ve been working in the field of accessibility for almost 25 years. I really love how your post takes important accessibility features and points out their practical application for users with and without disabilities. Thank you!

hundoman

What about #8 – Apple ditching Google for Microsoft Bing for queries made through Spotlight.

Also didn’t Apple founder Steve Jobs once dismissed Microsoft as a maker of “third-rate products.” How times have changed in the Tim Cook era.

Chris

How about the ability to ask Siri things by typing, for the speech impaired? I’ve been asking Apple for ages.

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