Your iPhone’s accessibility features are legendary. There’s just so many of them, bringing a surprising level of customization to an operating system known for it’s restrictive and locked-down nature.
If you want to make your iPhone’s text larger, have it speak text selections to you, or enable a number of other handy features to make using your phone easier, you can do it all from one neat menu.
The last time we took a look at these options was in 2013 under iOS 6. Since then, several new versions of iOS have made the operating system even more inclusive.
The Accessibility Menu
If you’ve never fully explored the iPhone’s Settings app, then you may not have found the accessiblity menu. It’s hidden under Settings > General > Accessibility, and you’ll find all of the features discussed below in there. You can also find it by launching the Settings app, pulling the screen down to reveal a search field and using that to find the feature you’re looking for.
Make Text Easier to Read
Whether you struggle to read text up close or simply find the default iOS font size too small, you can adjust the size of all text across the operating system under the Larger Text field.
Incidentally, you can also make text smaller using this option — just in case you’d rather fit more on your screen. Drag the slider to adjust text size, or use the Larger Accessibility Sizes option to enable even larger text in apps that support it.
Bold Text will place emphasis on all text, which makes it easier to read without having to adjust the size (you can also enable both). If you want to enable this option, you’ll need to restart your iPhone.
The Increase Contrast section contains option to Reduce Transparency, which disables the fancy background effects used by Control Center, Notification Center, and other areas of the operating system.
Instead these sections, appear opaque — enabling this feature on older iPhones will also speed up performance. There are options to Darken Colors and Reduce White Point — if you’re not sure if you need these, try them; you can always disable them later.
In the main Accessibility menu, you can also find options for Button Shapes and On/Off Labels. The former replaces the navigation options that appear along the top of the screen with a shaded background arrow, which some users may be able to see better. On/Off Labels adds an “I” for on and “O” for off to iOS toggle switches, which is a fairly minor cosmetic change.
Your iPhone Can Read to You
There are all sorts of reasons you might want your iPhone to read to you, like if you’re busy doing something (like cooking, or cleaning) and you want to hear a news story or email read aloud. If that sounds good to you, head over to the Speech section to see a few options that you might want to enable.
Speak Selection allows you to select text as you normally would (by double-tapping and dragging) then choose the Speak button to hear the highlighted text read aloud — you can even pause and adjust playback speed.
Speak Screen is another option, and it allows you to swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers to have the whole screen spoken aloud to you. Speak Auto-text is an option that automatically speaks pending auto-capitalization and autocorrect options aloud before they are made.
For visually impaired users, VoiceOver is a much more advanced feature which provides tap-to-speak features for almost all aspects of the operating system. For a good look at what it offers, check out our in-depth look at VoiceOver.
When iOS 7 launched, some users complained that the zooming animation that occurs when you launch an app from the home screen was causing motion sickness. Apple also introduced a tilt-activated parallax effect whereby icons appear to “float” above the home screen background.
Both of these features can be disabled by enabling Reduce Motion from the Accessibility menu.
Some users have claimed that turning off motion effects may save battery life, but it’s unlikely that the feature results in any noticeable power savings.
Disable Shake to Undo
Did you know you can shake your iPhone to undo things? If you’re always accidentally activating the feature, then you’ll no doubt be all too familiar with the alert box that pops up whenever you trigger it.
If you’d rather disable shake to undo entirely, then you can do so under Shake to Undo, but be aware that you’ll lose the functionality entirely (unless you’re using a hardware keyboard, then you can hit command+z).
LED Flash for Alerts
Having trouble hearing your iPhone alerts and phone calls? Maybe you perpetually keep your iPhone muted. In case vibrating alerts aren’t enough, you can enable LED Flash for Alerts to draw your attention whenever you receive a text message or email, incoming a call, have a timer end, or anything else really.
The feature works regardless of alert type, but might not be great if you’re using your phone somewhere you don’t want to draw attention to yourself (like a movie theater). You might also get a few strange looks on the train if your LED flash suddenly goes off too, so keep that in mind.
Auto-Route Audio to Headsets or Speakerphone
If you’re dependent on a headset to answer phone calls, or you’re a business-person-of-action who is perpetually connected to some sort of Bluetooth earpiece, then the Call Audio Routing menu allows you to automatically route incoming calls to a device of your choosing. The feature works for both standard phone calls and FaceTime.
You’ll need to connect a Bluetooth device first via the Settings > Bluetooth menu, or choose the Speaker option to have all calls automatically enable your iPhone’s built-in speakerphone whenever you answer them.
Lock Your iPhone in an App
Whether you’ve got children and you want to allow them access to your iPhone to play a game or watch YouTube without deleting all of your emails, or you’re using your iPad to collect newsletter sign-ups at an event and you don’t want people to access the rest of your stuff, Guided Access is how you do it.
The feature restricts your iPhone to one-app. Once enabled, you can triple-click the home button in an app to enable it, and then disable whole areas of the screen, the power button, volume controls and many other settings via the Options button.
You can even enable TouchID and a passcode to disable the feature under the Accessibility menu.
Don’t Forget Assistive Touch
Enable Assistive Touch to add a button to your iPhone’s screen, which you can drag around and place wherever you like.
One of the most popular uses for assistive touch is to restore device functionality in cases where the Home button stops working, but you can also use it to force landscape mode, access features hidden behind swipe gestures like Notification Center and Control Center, use Siri, and even customize the menu to your liking.
Custom features you can add to Assistive Touch include volume controls, taking a screenshot, shaking your iPhone (for accessing Shake to Undo if you can’t physically shake your iPhone), and even one-handed pinch-to-zoom controls.
Other Accessibility Options
The iOS Accessibility menu is full of many other options to help make the operating system more accessible to those who need it. This includes options for Bluetooth Hearing Aids and other sound options — like the ability to adjust the audio balance between left and right channels, or force Mono Audio — and even automatically turning on Subtitles & Captioning where available.
Use Touch Accommodations to enable features like hold-to-touch or discount multiple taps, and enable Switch Control to use external devices like iPortal which is specially designed for wheelchair users.
And don’t forget — while iOS is still out in front in terms of the accessibility options on offer, Android users have a similar set of features to make use of.
What accessibility options do you use on your iPhone?