20 Accessibility Features For Your iPhone, iPad and Mac: A Step-by-Step Guide

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by Jack Taylor | Last Updated:  May 13, 2020

Apple has incredibly innovative products and services, but are they really designed for everybody? For example, how can someone who is deaf, blind, or disabled, use an iPhone, iPad or Mac?

It does not matter if you are deaf or blind, or suffer from a severe physical disability that limits your movement. Apple devices are the right choice for you, because they were designed for people with any disability.

In this article, we will define 20 accessibility features available to you through your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Mac. We will discover how you can benefit from each of these and will walk you through the step-by-step process of enabling each feature for a better overall user experience.

Apple offers intuitive macOS and IOS features that offer just the right touch to help you interact with your Apple devices.

Moreover, Apple offers audio accessibility features for the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Mac, to empower its users in support of their independence by offering the following accessibility features.

It should be noted that the steps offered in this article that show how to enable each accessibility feature can be found at support.apple.com, I did change the wording for the steps to be taken in order to make it more understandable and readable.

1) Touch Accommodations

This accessibility feature changes how the screen on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch responds to taps, swipes, and other gestures.

The Benefit of Using Touch Accommodations

This feature was designed with those who have suffer from motor skill impairments, such as tremors or those who have hands that shake uncontrollably.  With Touch Accommodations, Apple has made it much easier to navigate from screen to screen, and because those who suffer from motor skill impairments differs from person to person, you can adjust the settings to meet your specific needs.

How to Enable Touch Accommodations

  1. Open the SETTINGS app
  2. Tap ACCESSIBILITY
  3. Select TOUCH, then select TOUCH ACCOMMODATIONS
  4. Enable TOUCH ACCOMMODATIONS by tapping the button
  5. After you turn it on, it automatically appears in the Accessibility Shortcut.

Now that you have enabled Touch Accommodations, you will see that there are four main settings that you can adjust within Touch Accommodations to help your device respond better to your touch.  They are as follows:

  1. Hold Duration
    The Hold Duration setting is used to determine how long you need to press the screen before your touching the screen is recognized. If you increase the hold duration time beyond 0.3 seconds, a circular timer will display when you touch the screen. Once the countdown timer is finished, your device will immediately recognize as an intentional input.
     
  2. Swipe Gestures
    In order to use Swipe Gestures, both the Hold Duration and Tap Assistance must be enabled on your device. When Swipe Gestures is on, you can swipe without waiting for the Hold Duration timer to complete. Additionally, this setting will allow you to determine how far your finger must move before a swipe is recognized by enabling the Required Movement setting, [this setting will appear when Swipe Gestures is enabled]. 
  3. Ignore Repeat
    You can choose to have multiple involuntary taps recognized as a single tap. Just tap a duration while you’re using several taps.
  4. Tap Assistance
    With Tap Assistance, if you accidentally perform a swipe gesture, your device can determine whether your initial touch location or final touch is read as your intended tap location.

    When you have Use Initial Touch Location set as your preferred option, you can touch the screen, then drag your finger around until the Tap Assistance Gesture Delay timer is finished.

    When you have Use Final Touch Location enabled, you can touch your screen anywhere, then drag your finger to the point where you want to tap before the timer is finished.

2) AssistiveTouch

With AssistiveTouch enabled, you can adjust the volume, lock your screen, use multi-finger gestures, restart your device, and even replace pressing buttons with just a single tap.

The Benefit of Using AssistiveTouch

People who have difficulty pressing any button on the iPhone or iPad, or iPad touch will greatly benefit from the feature, especially those who suffer from arthritis.

Instead of using gestures, you can use AssistiveTouch to access menus and controls that require onscreen gestures.  For example, you can use Assistive Touch for the following:

The AssistiveTouch menu allows you to access functions that would one normally would be controlled by pressing physical buttons or moving the device. With Assistive Touch, you can do all of the following:

How to Enable AssistiveTouch

There are 3 ways to turn on AssistiveTouch:

  1. Go to SETTINGSACCESSIBILITY > TOUCH, then select AssistiveTouch to turn it on.
  2. You can simply say, “Hey Siri, turn on AssistiveTouch.” 
  3. Go to SETTINGS > ACCESSIBILITY > ACCESSIBILITY SHORTCUT and then turn on AssistiveTouch

3) Sticky Keys

Sticky Keys is a feature on the Mac where you can enter key combinations by pressing keys in sequence rather than needing to press all keys at the same time.

The Benefit of Using Sticky Keys

The benefit of enabling “Sticky Keys” on your Mac, is that users who are unable to press multiple keys at the same time, or have difficulty pressing shortcut key combinations, can still use shortcut key combinations, sequentially, and not at the same time.  For those whose fingers don’t reach, (or don’t reach comfortably), this is a nice feature.

How to Enable Sticky Keys

There are three ways to launch the Accessibility Options dialog box so that you can enable the Sticky Keys feature.

  1. If you have a MacBook without Touch ID, press FNOPTIONCOMANDF5 key combination.
  2. If you have a MacBook with Touch ID, triple-press the Touch ID button.
  3. If you have an external keyboard, (on a Mac or iPad), press OPTIONCOMMANDF5.

After using any of the afore-mentioned options, you’ll see the Accessibility Options dialog box appear on screen.  Simply click (or tap), the STICKY KEYS checkbox to enable this feature, and then click (or tap), DONE.

4) Slow Keys

This accessibility feature will help those whose hands shake from tremors causing repeated keystrokes.

The Benefit of Using Slow Keys

By enabling this feature, you can change how long a key has to be pressed before it is recognized by the computer. If you set it to a long delay, this will help prevent repeated keystrokes.

How to Enable Slow Keys

There are three ways to launch the Accessibility Options dialog box so that you can enable the Slow Keys feature.

  1. If you have a MacBook without Touch ID, press FNOPTIONCOMANDF5 key combination.
  2. If you have a MacBook with Touch ID, triple-press the Touch ID button.
  3. If you have an external keyboard, (on a Mac or iPad), press OPTIONCOMMANDF5.

After using any of the afore-mentioned options, you’ll see the Accessibility Options dialog box appear on screen.  Simply click (or tap), the SLOW KEYS checkbox to enable this feature, and then click (or tap), DONE.

5) Accessibility Keyboard

The Accessibility Keyboard is an onscreen keyboard.  When enabled, you can use your Mac without a physical keyboard. When in use, it can provide advanced typing suggestions, such as word suggestions, etc.

The Benefit of Using Accessibility Keyboard

When you use the Accessibility Keyboard, you can also turn on a feature called Dwell, which allows you to perform mouse actions using eye or head-tracking technology!  This is a feature that those who are paralyzed or are immobile can take advantage of.  Seriously, how cool is that?

How to Enable Accessibility Keyboard

There are three ways to launch the Accessibility Options dialog box so that you can enable the Accessibility Keyboard feature.

  1. If you have a MacBook without Touch ID, press FNOPTIONCOMANDF5 key combination.
  2. If you have a MacBook with Touch ID, triple-press the Touch ID button.
  3. If you have an external keyboard, (on a Mac or iPad), press Option-CommandF5.

After using any of the afore-mentioned options, you’ll see the Accessibility Options dialog box appear on screen.  Simply click (or tap), the ACCESSIBILITY KEYBOARD checkbox to enable this feature, and then click (or tap), DONE.

If using a Mac, click the APPLE MENU ICON at the top left of your screen > SYSTEM PREFERENCES, click ACCESSIBILITY, click KEYBOARD, click ACCESSIBILITY KEYBOARD, now select ENABLE ACCESSIBILITY KEYBOARD.

6) Mouse Keys

With Mouse Keys enabled, you can use the keyboard (or numeric keypad keys) to move the mouse pointer around your screen, by simply pressing and holding the keys.  Below is a chart showing you exactly what the keyboard shortcuts are. 

The Benefits of Using Mouse Keys

If the trackpad on your MacBook has stopped working for some reason, you can use the Keyboard to navigate around the screen.  If you are not able to move your arm or even your wrist, you can enable Mouse Keys to move the cursor around your screen by simply moving your fingers while keeping your wrist stationary.

Note the position of the keys offered in the chart above. You do not need to move your wrist or arm in order to utilize the benefits offered by Mouse Keys.

How to Enable Mouse Keys

To enable Mouse Keys, simply click the Apple Menu > SYSTEM PREFERENCES, click ACCESSIBILITY, click POINTER CONTROL, then click ALTERNATE CONTROL METHODS > now check the box, ENABLE MOUSE KEYS.

7) Switch Control

Switch Control allows one to use one Apple device to control another Apple device.  It is an accessibility feature that allows those with limited mobility to gain full use of their computer, for example, with the help of ability switches and other adaptive devices.  To better understand just how life-changing this feature is, take a look at this YouTube video that shows how Switch Control has completely changed the life of a boy with severe disabilities.

The Benefit of Using Switch Control

As can be seen in the video above, with the implementation of Switch Control which came out in iOS 7, this feature alone has had life-changing results for thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people. 

Using the example of Christopher in the video above, he is now editing video in Final Cut Pro on his Desktop computer because he is able to use Switch Control.  That is truly amazing.

How to Enable Switch Control

  1. First, you must make sure that all devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
  2. You then need to sign into iCloud using same Apple ID on both devices.
    • If you want to control a Mac, choose Apple Menu > System Preferences on your computer. 
    • Select ACCESSIBILITY. In the sidebar, choose SWITCH CONTROL
    • Check the checkbox next to “Allow platform switching to control your computer.”
  3. Turn on Switch Control on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
  4. Use your switch to navigate the Switch Control menu, and then Select Device.
  5. Select Use Other Device.
  6. At this point, you need to select the device that you want to control and then select Connect. Now you can use the switch connected to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to control the other device.  It’s the simple.

How to Enable Switch Control on your Mac

  1. First, you must make sure that all devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
  2. You then need to sign into iCloud using same Apple ID on both devices.
  3. Turn on Switch Control on your Mac.
  4. Use your switch to navigate the Switch Control menu, and then Select Device.
  5. Select the device that you want to control and select CONNECT. That’s all there is to it.  You can now you can use the switch connected to your Mac to control the other device.

8) Dictation

The Dictation tool allows you to speak into your device which will then automatically turn your voice into text.

The Benefit of Using Dictation

When using the Dictation tool, you can compose e-mail, text messages, or even write an article or book.  It is extremely accurate and does not need time to learn your voice.  It just works.

How to Enable Dictation on IOS Devices

  1. Tap the SETTINGS app to open it
  2. Tap GENERAL > KEYBOARD
  3. Scroll to the bottom and toggle on ENABLE DICTATION

How to Enable Dictation on Your Mac

  1. Click on the Apple Menu and click SYSTEM PREFERENCES
  2. Click KEYBOARD
  3. Click on the DICTATION tab
  4. Select ON to enable dictation

9) Dictation Commands

Dictation commands are commands that you use while using the Dictation tool to speak into your device, and is used for punctuation, formatting, capitalization, and symbols for math, currency, emoticons, and intellectual property.

To view a complete list of ALL dictation commands that are available to you for use on your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Mac, click here.

The Benefit of Using Dictation Commands

You will not have to touch the device or keyboard in order to enter punctuation, formatting, capitalization, and symbols for math, currency, emoticons, and intellectual property.

For example, you can speak the words, “Pound sterling sign”, and the result will be £.  You could also speak the words, “Registered sign” and the result will be ®

The more familiar you become accustomed to dictation commands, the more you will find yourself using the Dictation tool to compose text.

How to Enable Dictation Commands

The Dictation Commands are all available by default when you enable the Dictation tool on the device you are using, (see #8 above).

10) Screen Flash

Screen Flash is a feature where the screen on your Mac will flash to indicate an audio alert.

The Benefit of Screen Flash

For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, this is a great feature, as it will bring an alert to your attention where you can then decide on how to proceed.

How to Enable Screen Flash

  1. Click on the Apple Menu at the top left of the screen on your Mac
  2. Click SYSTEM PREFERENCES
  3. One System Preferences opens, click ACCESSIBILITY
  4. Click AUDIO in the left menu bar
  5. Check the box that reads, “Flash the screen when an alert sound occurs”.

11) LED Flash for Alerts

LED Flash Alerts is to the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, what Screen Flash is to the Mac.  The screen on your device will flash to indicate an audio alert.

The Benefit of Using LED Flash for Alerts

For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, implementing this feature will visually alert you so that you can decide how to proceed.

How to Enable LED Flash for Alerts

  1. Launch the SETTINGS app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch
  2. Tap ACCESSIBILITY > AUDIO/VISUAL
  3. Toggle the “LED Flash for AlertsON

12) Siri is Your Digital Assistant

Siri is the Virtual Assistant that responds to voice commands, allowing you to do everything from launching applications on your device, to finding information on the internet by simply speaking the phrase, “Hey Siri”.  With Siri, you can quickly obtain information, or play music, or create an appointment, or even tell you what last night’s score results from your favorite team.

The Benefit of Using Type to Siri

Siri can help you become more productive.  Everyone who uses an Apple device can benefit from using Siri.  For example, you can ask, “Hey Siri, what’s the weather going to be like tomorrow”, and Siri will respond by saying, “It will be windy in [your town] tomorrow.  The high will be 48° and a low of 33°

How to Enable Siri on IOS

When first setting up your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, you are asked if you would like to enable Siri.  If you did not enable Siri when you initially set up your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, you can easily do so by following the steps below:

  1. Launch the SETTINGS app
  2. Tap SIRI & SEARCH
  3. Toggle the Listen for “Hey SiriON
  4. From here, you have several options to choose from.

How to Enable Siri on your Mac

  1. Click on the Apple Menu at the top left side of your Mac
  2. Select SYSTEM PREFERENCES
  3. Once the System Preferences displays, click SIRI
  4. On the left, click on the checkbox next to “Enable Ask Siri”, to enable Siri.

13) Closed Captions

Closed-captioned content is a visual transcription of the dialog being played in a video.  In other words, whatever is being spoken, will be displayed at the bottom of the video in question so that the conversation can be read.

The Benefit of Using Captions

Those who are deaf or hard of hearing will greatly benefit from this feature so that they can enjoy movies or online video content such as YouTube videos.  Additionally, there are those who do not suffer from hearing loss, but want to know what is being said while in an environment that is not conducive to turning the volume up.  For example, at the gym or while in a business office setting, or airport.

How to Enable Captions on IOS

  1. Launch the SETTINGS app
  2. Tap on GENERAL > ACCESSIBILITY
  3. Now, scroll down to the Media section and tap SUBTITLES & CAPTIONING
  4. Finally, tap CLOSED CAPTIONS + SDH to turn it on.

How to Enable Captions on your Mac

  1. Click on the Apple Menu at the top left side of your Mac
  2. Select SYSTEM PREFERENCES
  3. Once the System Preferences displays, click ACCESSIBILITY
  4. Click CAPTIONS in the sidebar.
  5. Select “Prefer closed captions and SDH” to turn it on.

14) FaceTime

Think of FaceTime as a visual phone call. It allows communicate and see the person on the other end of that call.

The Benefit of Using FaceTime

FaceTime is fun to use.  It brings people together by allowing you to see the person you are communicating with in real time.  You can literally see the person that you are communicating with who might be on the other side of the planet.

Those who are deaf and use sign language to communicate with other people in real time.  No longer are they limited to text.  FaceTime opens up a world of communication to the deaf, literally.

How to Enable FaceTime

FaceTime is available on the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Mac as an application that you can launch and use.  When initially launched, it will ask you to grant permission for it to access the built-in camera on your device.  Additionally, it will ask for permission to use the microphone on your device.  Any time you wish to use FaceTime, simply launch the application itself.

15) Video Recording

With Apple devices, such as a iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Mac, you can record videos for later viewing.

The Benefit of Using Video Recording

Most people don’t give a second thought to leaving voicemail, but how does leaving voicemail benefit those who are deaf?  How does leaving voicemail benefit the one who is not able to speak?

If you are deaf, you could record a video of you using sign language to communicate with someone else.  Why not simply send an email?  Because anyone who is deaf knows that watching someone sign to communicate if FAR more meaningful.  The gestures used, the facial expressions and body language speak volumes in communicating.

How to Enable Video Recording

In some applications, the option to access the camera is built into the app, but that is not the case with all apps.  You can launch the camera app and swipe the slider from CAMERA to VIDEO, and then press the red button to start recording.

Once the video has been recorded, you can open up that video in the PHOTOS app, and tap on the SHARE icon (located in the bottom left side of the screen), to send that video via the MESSAGES app or MAIL app, (or others apps that you have installed on your device).

16) Visual Voicemail

Visual Voicemail, (also known as Voicemail transcripts), allows you to see the voicemail, to determine if it is something that you want to spend time listening to.  For example, If I receive voicemail, and see the transcript of the voicemail, I don’t have to waste my time listening to it.

The Benefit of Using Visual Voicemail

This feature comes in really handy for those who are deaf or are hard of hearing.  They can simply let all incoming calls go to voicemail and then read the text of the voicemail.

Another benefit of using Visual Voicemail is that you can weed out all the spammy voicemail messages that have been left on your phone.  Now, when someone who is trying to sell me extended car insurance, I can easily see what they are saying, and delete it, without allowing them to waste 26 seconds of my life that I can never get back after listening to them ramble on and on. 

Mind you, not all cell phone carriers allow for this feature, but you can find out if yours does by visiting Apple’s Support website by reading this article.

How to Enable Visual Voicemail

If your cellphone carrier supports Visual Voicemail, it is already turned on by default.  If you have never set up your voicemail before, you an simply follow these 6 simple steps:

  1. Tap on the Phone app on your iPhone, and then tap the voicemail icon at the bottom right of your screen.
  2. Tap SET UP NOW.
  3. You will be prompted to create a voicemail password, and once you do, tap DONE.
  4. Enter your password again to confirm it, then tap DONE again. 
  5. Select CUSTOM or DEFAULT. If you choose CUSTOM, you can record a customized greeting.
  6. Now tap SAVE to save your settings.

17) Custom Vibration Patterns

Custom vibration patterns is a feature offered by Apple that will allow you to associate a specific vibration pattern with any one of the contacts in your phone.

The Benefit of Using Custom Vibration Patterns

Imagine sitting in a business meeting only to find that your phone starts to vibrate.  Wouldn’t it be great to know who is calling without having to pull your phone out of your pocket to find out?  This is the benefit of creating a custom vibration pattern on your phone.  Once you have memorized the vibration pattern, that specific vibration pattern can then be associated with one of your contacts so that when they call you, you will know exactly who it is without even having to pull your phone out of your pocket to see who is calling.

If you have an Apple Watch, that same vibration pattern will vibrate on your wrist as well, when that particular contact calls you.

How to Enable Custom Vibration Patterns

To enable this feature tap on the phone icon and locate the contact that you would like to associate a vibration pattern with. Once you have selected the contact, tap the EDIT link at the top right-hand side of your screen and scroll down to and tap RINGTONE. Near the top of the screen tap VIBRATION and select the type of vibration from those available in the list. 

If you would like to create a custom vibration for that particular contact,

you’ll simply tap the screen to create a vibration pattern for that contact.  Once you have finished creating the custom vibration pattern, tap STOP at the lower right-hand side of screen, and then tap SAVE at the top right-hand side of the screen to save this vibration pattern for this particular contact.  Now, every time this particular contact calls you, that vibration patterns that you just created will vibrate to that pattern when they call you.

18) Messages App

The Messages app allows one to send and receive text messages from other people from an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and even the Mac computer.

The Benefit of Using the Messages App

The Messages app is built into all devices, making it easy to communicate via text over from your cellular device or by using Wi-Fi.

When texting was first introduced on cell phones, way before the iPhone was first introduced, it opened up a new way of communicating for the deaf.  Apple has made that experience even better by introducing Emojis and Emoticons that offer facial expressions when sending text messages through the Messages app.

How to Use the Message App

Because the Messages app is already built into the operating system, all you need to do to use it to launch the application from your device.  Either tap the name of the person that you want to text or enter a new message by entering the phone number of that person.

From within the app, you can click on DETAILS and you will see the option to either place a phone call or FaceTime that individual. Additionally, you can check the box that says “Do not Disturb” in the event that you find that somebody just won’t stop texting you.

19) Notes App

The Notes App is a simple but very useful way of taking notes.  Any notes taken in the Notes app are automatically synced to all other Apple devices you may own via iCloud.

The Benefit of Using the Notes App

Besides being a simple word processor in its own right, the Notes app serves as a great accessibility feature because you can ask Siri to launch it and record a note using your voice, all without having to touch your device. 

How to Use the Notes App

For example, you could simply say, “Hey Siri, Open Notes”, and the Notes app will launch.  However, you could take this a step further and say, “Hey Siri, create a new note saying, this is a test note”, and Siri will create a note called, “This is a test”.

Now, let’s say that you wanted to take it one step further still.  You could say, “Hey Siri, create a new note”.  Siri will then ask you what you want to say.  You could respond by saying, “This is a test note period new paragraph this is the content of my note and anything that I say will be dictated into this note period.”

Your note will then look exactly like this:

This is a test note.

This is the content of my note and anything that I say will be dictated into this note.

Notice that the first line of the note becomes the Title of the note.  This can be useful when an idea comes to mind while driving down the road, and you want to jot your thoughts down, without having to pull over to the side of the road to jot your note down.  In practice, you will find that this is useful if you simply want to jot down ideas, it is not really designed to write lengthy paragraphs, at least when used in the method described above.

However, the Notes app can also be used as a full word processor to write entire articles or papers with, should you decide to do so.

20) RTT / TTY

RTT or TTY (Real-time text / Text Telephone) are phone calls that can be sent and received by those who are hearing impaired. 

The Benefit of Using TTY

This feature sounds redundant.  Why not simply send a text message, or have them send a text message to you? 

People can place phone calls to you from a land line, say, from a business, for example.  They may not know that the person that they are calling is deaf, so with RTT / TTY, the phone will translate the speech into text, displaying as text on your iPhone.  You can also respond by simply texting within the phone app your response, which will then be spoken in the voice of Siri to the recipient on the other end of the phone.

TTY has been around a years, way before the iPhone came about.  Apple, however, has made it very easy to use RTT / TTY for use on your iPhone.

How to Enable TTY

  1. Open up the SETTINGS app on your iPhone
  2. Tap ACCESSIBILITIES > RTT/TTY
  3. Turn on Software RTT/TTY or Hardware TTY.
  4. Tap RELAY NUMBER and enter a phone number for RTT/TTY relay calls.
  5. If you want to send characters as you type them, turn on SEND IMMEDIATELY. Or, if you want to type full messages before you send the message, turn off SEND IMMEDIATELY.
  6. To answer every call as RTT/TTY, turn on ANSWER ALL CALLS AS RTT/TTY, but note that if you turn this setting on, you won’t get any voice calls anymore.
  7. If you want to answer and make RTT/TTY calls from an external RTT/TTY device instead of your iPhone, turn on HARDWARE TTY

Closing Thoughts

As you can see, Apple has made it a priority to address the needs of those with accessibility needs, by building these features into your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Mac.  These features offer numerous benefits for each device, providing the end user with a tremendous user experience.


Jack has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article or working on his YouTube channel, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Jack, click here.