Transcript assistive technology - iOS - Accessible publishing

Accessible publishing banner - basic

Nested Applications



Assistive technology iOS

[Narrator:] In this chapter, we will discuss the accessibility features which come bundled with the iOS operating system. For our course, we will use iOS 12.4. Please note that Apple updates and changes its operating system from time to time. So your screen or set of functionalities might look slightly different from the ones described in this tutorial.

Apple is very successful in the accessibility domain and there are good reasons for this. The accessibility functions are part of every operating system without extra charge. All their devices come bundled with assistive technology. iOS devices, such as the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, as well as the macOS desktop computer, Apple Watch and Apple TV use similar accessibility features, which creates a cross-device user experience.

iOS offers a variety of accessibility tools to customise the mobile device so it is easier to use. Users with different kinds of disabilities will find potential solutions. To access the accessibility tools, go to Settings, General, then Accessibility. The accessibility settings offer supporting functions for problems with vision, hearing, physical interaction and learning.

In the following sections, we will introduce and demonstrate the most important tools and functions.


Zoom is a screen magnifier. It is primarily designed for people with limited vision capabilities, but it can be useful for anyone who needs to focus on a tiny part of the screen. In many apps, you can zoom in or out on specific items. For example, you can double-tap or pinch to look closer in Photos.

You can use Zoom to magnify the screen no matter which app you are using. You can magnify the entire screen or only part of the screen with a resizable lens. To turn it on, select Zoom and activate the switch. Then double tap with three fingers anywhere on the screen to enable and disable it. Drag three fingers around the screen to pan around and move to another area of the screen. Double-tap and hold three fingers, then move up or down to increase or decrease the zoom factor.

Turn on Follow Focus to track your selections, the text insertion point and your typing. To magnify your typing but not the keyboard, turn on Smart Typing.

Let's try this in Notes. As you can see, the Zoom follows our text cursor and the keyboard is not magnified, so we always have a complete keyboard in view.

The Zoom Controller offers visual feedback for easier navigation. It also changes the gestures to make it easier to navigate with one finger. Tap once on the controller to show the Zoom menu. Double tap on the controller to zoom in and out.

If you prefer, you can define the Zoom Region by choosing between Window Zoom and Full Screen Zoom. You can apply several filters to the magnified part of the screen. Triple-tap with three fingers to adjust the settings in the Zoom menu. Here we can, for example, resize the zoom lens: tap Resize Lens, then drag any of the round handles that appear. You can set the maximum zoom level using the slider at the bottom part of the screen.

Another useful feature is the Magnifier. Select Magnifier and activate the switch.

For improved readability, activate Auto-Brightness. On a device with a home button, triple-click the Home button to activate the Magnifier. On iPhones and iPads without a home button, triple-click the side button to activate the Magnifier. Tap, hold and drag the slider to adjust the magnification. Move left to decrease and right to increase the magnification.

If you need more light, turn on the flashlight in the Magnifier. If you are too close to an object, your camera might continually refocus, but if you tap the Focus Lock button, it will maintain the focus you see on the screen.

If you like, you can take a freeze frame to zoom in and out on a still image. Tap the Freeze Frame button in the bottom centre of your screen.

It is the same button you would use to take a picture with the camera. Tap and drag the magnification slider back and forth to zoom in and out on the image. Tap the Freeze Frame button again to return to the Live Magnifier. You can apply several filters to the image. Tap the Filters button on the bottom right corner of your screen.

Swipe left along the filters to choose one. Depending on your needs, you can invert each filter so that the colours switch.

Colour filters

In the Accessibility settings, you can use Display Accommodations to apply several filters to your screen content.

The Invert Colours tab gives different options for users who would like to use their phone with a dark background rather than a light one.

Tap on Smart Invert if you would like your phone to invert all colours except those in specific types of media that already use dark colours. Alternatively, you can use Classic Invert to reverse the colours of the display completely. To adapt the screen for several colour blindness problems, use the Colour Filters. The default layout will show a series of coloured pencils, but you can swipe right to see a few different other options.

Each of these three options is intended to help you figure out which mode will work for your specific type of colour blindness. Turn on the Colour Filters button and you will be presented

with several different options for filters that will adjust the iOS colour scheme in order to suit the needs of users with complete colour blindness.

When you select each mode, your screen will instantly adjust to reflect the changes.

If you are a designer and you want to make sure that your document, website or app is accessible to users with colour deficiencies, check that all the content is distinguishable without colour. To deactivate colours, select the Greyscale option. Now test your document or app. Can all elements be identified? Is all the text legible? Is the difference in brightness large enough so the different elements offer enough contrast?

The first three options allow you to adjust colours to different types of colour blindness. The fourth option allows you to adjust the Colour Tint to intensify a specific colour.

The hue slider will change the colour of the tint, allowing you to settle on a shade for your screen that is most comfortable for your eyes.


VoiceOver is the built-in screen reader. A screen reader is essentially software that reads screen content to the user. Beyond pure audio output, a screen reader can make use of braille displays to display text in a tactile form.

This allows a user with visual impairments to read text character by character. Please note that touch-based devices are gesture driven. Gestures are mostly position dependent. A sighted user starts an app by tapping an app icon with a finger. It is essential that the position of the app icon on screen is part of the gesture.

As users with certain visual disabilities cannot detect the position of an element on screen, the normal gestures do not work. Please be aware that once you activate a screen reader on a mobile device, you need to learn another set of gestures to operate the device.

In the Accessibility menu, select VoiceOver. To start or stop it, select VoiceOver and activate the switch.

[Screen reader:] VoiceOver on, Settings, Accessibility, Back button.

[Narrator:] Let's see how the home screen can be navigated. Touch the screen and move your finger over the screen.

[Screen reader:] Calendar, Photos, Maps. Clock 17:59. Double tap to open.

[Narrator:] VoiceOver starts to read the names of the folders and apps below your finger. This is the explore mode. A user with visual impairments can get an idea of the location of each element on the screen. Obviously, it can be difficult to find all the items with which a user can interact following this approach. Small screen elements, in particular, might be missed and would stay hidden.

Therefore, we use another feature to navigate to the next and previous element on the screen. By swiping right for the next item and swiping left for the previous item, we can reach all the screen elements independently from their screen position.

[Screen reader:] Maps, Weather, Notes, Reminders, Notes, Weather, Maps. Double tap to open.

[Narrator:] Please note that the swipe gesture can be executed position independently. It is of no importance if you swipe in the upper or lower part of the screen. To activate an element, just double-tap. Following this approach, let us switch VoiceOver off.

[Screen reader:] Settings. Double tap to open. Settings, Accessibility, Back button. VoiceOver, heading. VoiceOver on. Double tap to toggle setting. VoiceOver off.

[Narrator:] This has been a very small introduction to the VoiceOver screen reader. For more information, please refer to the Screen readers - iOS chapter.


In the Accessibility settings, you will find the Speech menu. By activating one of the Speech options on your iOS device, you can hear the entire screen read aloud from top to bottom or just selected text. You can listen to text as you type it, word by word or by character.

By activating Speak Selection, you can hear selected text read aloud. Select some text. From the pop-up menu, tap on Speak, and your selected text is read to you.

[Screen reader:] Approximately 80 million Europeans have one or more disabilities ranging from colour blindness to motor handicap.

[Narrator:] You can enable the Speech feature to read your entire screen from top to bottom. Activate the Speak Screen switch. You can also enable the option to highlight content as it is spoken. Let's navigate to a document and make the system read the text to us. Swipe two fingers down from the top of the screen to trigger the reading. A small speech control panel pops up while the text is read aloud.

[Screen reader:] 1. Introduction. The following document is the final deliverable of the project SMART 2016/0089...

[Narrator:] The control panel will condense into a small right arrow button. If you do nothing, the arrow button will also fade in colour.

[Screen reader:] 1.1 Web accessibility - the ongoing digitiza...

[Narrator:] Tap on the arrow to bring back the full control panel. Now you can control the reading. You can play, pause, speed up and slow down the reading. Tap the Forward button to skip ahead to the next page. Tap the Rewind button to skip back.

[Screen reader:] Because of this growing importance, it is essential that every... Figure 1, the Four Accessibility Principles. The main elements... The directive requires all new public sector

websites and mobile applications to be accessible. Existing websites and mobile applications need to conform to the European standard EN 301 549 Level AA of WCAG 2.0 for...

[Narrator:] Tap the X to stop the reading. If you stop the speech and then want to pick up where you left off, swipe two fingers down on the screen.

[Screen reader:] The director requires all new public sector websites and mobile applications to be accessible.

[Narrator:] The reading resumes from the top of your current screen. Typing Feedback allows you to hear text spoken aloud as you type it. You can enable options to hear individual characters, words and auto-text spoken aloud.

[Screen reader:] Capital D-Delta. O-Oscar to Y-Yankee. Y-You.

[Narrator:] You can hold down each predicted word to hear it spoken aloud.

[Screen reader:] Your, you, you. [Inaudible.] Capital W missing, 3. Capital C-Charlie. W3C.

[Narrator:] If you do not like the default voice the system is using for your text, you can change it using the Voices configuration. Select Voices, then the language and choose the voice that should be associated with this language. Please note that additional voice might require an additional download. Once you have downloaded the voice of your choice, you can select and use it. Of course, you can configure the speaking rate, too.

[Screen reader:] Speech selection read selected content.

[Narrator:] Finally, you can try to correct any mispronunciations in the spoken speech. With Pronunciations, you can add a phrase or word that is being mispronounced. In the Substitution field, type or say the correct way to pronounce it, possibly by spelling it phonetically. Press play to hear the substitution.

[Screen reader:] Web consortium. Do you know the Web consortium?


You can use the Dictation function to convert spoken words into text. Go to Settings, General, Keyboard, and activate Enable Dictation. We open Notes as a text editor. When you start to type text, a small microphone icon appears in the keyboard. Press it and start to dictate text.

Please note that dictation does not generate any punctuation. You have to dictate all punctuation. Let's dictate some text.

[User:] Approximately - numeral 80 - million Europeans have one or more disabilities - Open parenthesis - ranging from colour-blindness to a motoric handicap - Close parenthesis - which hinders or limits their use of the web - Period. Is this text recognised correctly - Question mark - smiley face.

[Narrator:] To finish, tap the keyboard icon on the screen. Dictation sends your speech data to Apple's servers. It can only be used when connected to the internet. If this raises some privacy issues for you, you might want to reconsider using Dictation.


Siri is the intelligent personal assistant on your iOS device.

The assistant uses voice queries and a natural-language user interface to answer questions, make recommendations and perform actions by delegating requests to a set of internet services.

To ask Siri, take any of the following actions: Just say 'Hey Siri', then say what you need. If your device has a Home button, press it, then say what you need. If your device has no Home button, press the side button for a few moments, then immediately make your request. You can now start to interact with your device via your voice.

As a personal assistant, Siri accesses your contacts and calendar data to support you in your actions. Furthermore, Siri can only be used when connected to the internet.

If this raises some privacy issues for you, you might want to reconsider using Siri.

You can configure several options for Siri in Settings, Siri & Search.

As Siri is a very popular feature on iOS and is not only related to accessibility, we will not cover this in detail.


Tap Settings, General, Accessibility to access the accessibility features related to hearing. We can find them by scrolling down.

The first menu item, MFi Hearing Devices, allows you to pair a Bluetooth hearing aid with the iOS device. The pairing procedure is similar to the one with any other Bluetooth device, for example, a Bluetooth speaker.

If you cannot hear the sounds that announce incoming calls and other alerts, iOS can flash its LED. The LED flashes only if the device is locked.

Use LED Flash for Alerts to activate this feature. You can combine this feature with another option. Flash on Silent will use the LED Flash for Alerts when the ring switch is set to silent.

These features are useful for anyone who might miss the tones associated with calls and other alerts in a noisy environment.

When the Mono Audio feature is activated, all stereo audio signals will be played in mono.

Noise cancellation reduces ambient background noise on phone calls when you are holding the receiver to your ear.

You can adjust the audio volume balance between the left and right channels.

If your right ear can perceive only half of the loudness that your left ear can, then it may be useful to play the audio signal of the right channel using twice the volume of the left channel.


The Media part of the accessibility settings allows us to set several parameters related to Subtitles & Captioning.

Captions let you read the words spoken in the audio portion of a video.

The Closed Captions + Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard hearing menu item allows you to choose closed captioning or subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing instead of standard subtitles when available.

Standard subtitles assume the viewer can hear but cannot understand the language, so they transcribe only dialogue and some on-screen text.

Captions aim to describe all significant audio content, spoken dialogue and non-speech information.

Most of the world does not distinguish captions from subtitles. In the United States, these terms have different meanings. As Apple is an American company, the control panel offers this option.

You can customise different appearance parameters using the Style menu item. Several predefined values are available, which you can choose from. Of course, you are free to define your own appearance parameters using your colours, sizes and fonts.

Audio Description is additional narration track intended primarily for users with visual impairments or visual disabilities. It consists of a narrator talking through the presentation describing what is happening on the screen during the natural pauses in the audio.

iOS devices can select this additional audio track automatically, if available, when activating the menu item Audio Descriptions.


iOS allows you to pair a physical keyboard via Bluetooth to any iOS device.

If you have a keyboard connected to your device, you can configure some accessibility features in the Accessibility settings under Keyboard.

This function is used in particular by persons with limited control of their hands. Use Key Repeat to prevent characters being entered multiple times with a single key press. Additionally, you can adjust the length of time that a long key press is interpreted as a key repetition.

When Sticky Keys is activated, the system adds all keystrokes which can be used in combination with other keys, like Shift, Control or Option, until a character key is pressed. So you can type

Shift, Control, Option and a character key in sequence, instead of that the same time, to activate this key combination.

You can activate and deactivate Sticky Keys by pressing the Shift key five times, and you can create an acoustic feedback once a modifier key is pressed.

Slow Keys allows the user to specify the duration for which one must press-and-hold a key before the system accepts the keypress. This feature prevents unintentional keystrokes caused by trembling motions. The dialogue allows you to set the time a key need to be pressed until it is recognised as a keystroke.

For a demonstration of these features, please refer to the section Keyboard in the chapter on Assistive technology - macOS. MacOS offers the same keyboard functions.

Touch Accommodations

In the Accessibility settings, you find the Touch Accommodations.

Primarily designed to help people with motor skill impairments, it allows you to change the way your device responds to your touch. To use this feature, activate the switch of Touch Accommodations.

People with tremors tend to touch the screen multiple times. If you want your device to respond only to touches of a certain duration, activate Hold Duration. We set the Hold Duration time to half of a second. Let's try to scroll with fast short movements. The screen does not react. Let's touch the screen and hold our finger. Now, when we move the finger, the input is accepted and the screen will react.

We can deactivate this feature for Swipe Gestures. If you have trouble touching the screen once, you touch the screen a few times quickly, turn on Ignore Repeat. Then, if you touch the screen several times quickly, your device will treat them as one touch. You can change the amount of time that your device will treat several touches as one.


AssistiveTouch makes an iOS device easier to use for anyone with any form of physical impairment. You can use it without an accessory to perform actions or gestures that are difficult or even impossible otherwise. You can also use a compatible adaptive accessory (such as a joystick) together with AssistiveTouch to control the iOS device.

In the Accessibility settings, we choose AssistiveTouch. Once activated, a small menu button appears. The Menu button can be moved to any position on the screen.

Let's try a two-finger swipe with one finger. We touch the Menu button and select Device, More, Gestures, 2 fingers. Two spots appear on the screen to indicate the two fingers. Now, we slide with one finger up and down. The system will simulate a two-finger swipe, even though

we used just one finger. This makes using a touch-based device with a joystick simple, even though complex multi-finger gestures might be required.

Let's do something different. We want to take a screenshot. We touch the Menu button, select Device, select More and select Screenshot. Easy, isn't it?

The AssistiveTouch menu offers a lot more features and customization options, which cannot be explained here. Feel free to experiment with them.

Switch Control

Switch Control is a powerful accessibility technology for anyone with extensive physical and motor skill limitations. It helps you to enter text, choose menus, move your pointer and more, all by pressing a switch.

You can use the touch screen, a keyboard key or an external adaptive device with one or more switches. You can even use the front-facing camera by moving your head left or right while facing the camera to trigger the switch.

Switch Control scans your screen until you press a switch. This single tap selects an item or performs an action.

In the Accessibility settings, select Switch Control. As Switch Control requires a lot of time-intensive training, we will just make a short demonstration here.

By default, the system uses auto scanning. The focus will automatically move to the next interactive item after a specified duration. Once it reaches the end, it will restart from the beginning.

Let's activate the switch. You can see the focus moving from item to item. Once the focus is on an item of interest, we will activate the switch.

We will now move back to the home screen and back again to deactivate Switch Control again. As you can see, this works perfectly, but takes a lot of time. Switch Control offers several different scan modes and many options to choose from.

As Switch Control requires a lot of training to operate all the different panels and modes, we cannot explain them here.

Accessibility shortcut

As you have seen, there are many useful accessibility features offered by iOS. If you use one or more features frequently, it might be a good idea to configure an accessibility shortcut.

In the Accessibility settings, the last menu item is the Accessibility Shortcut. Select one or more accessibility features here. You can activate or deactivate them using one of the following actions.

On models with a home button, you can turn accessibility features on or off by triple clicking the Home button. On models without a home button, you can turn accessibility features on or off by triple clicking the side button.

[Screen reader:] Voiceover on. FaceTime. Project, Calendar, Photos. Double tap to open. Alert. Accessibility shortcuts. Switch Control, up, selected. VoiceOver button. VoiceOver off.

[Narrator:] You can also add accessibility features to the Control Center and then activate them from there. Go to Settings, Control Centre, Customise Controls, then tap the plus button next to Accessibility Shortcuts.

To activate an accessibility feature from Control Center, open the Control Center, then tap the Accessibility Shortcuts icon.

Where to continue?

You have seen an introduction on how accessibility tools are integrated into iOS. There are many options for very different kinds of specific needs. Depending on your personal interests, you could continue with one of the following chapters:

  • Assistive technology – Windows
  • Assistive technology – macOS
  • Assistive technology – Android

If you would like to know more about screen readers in iOS, we recommend you continue with: Screen readers – iOS.

[Automated voice:] Accessibility. For more information visit:

Close tab