How to Use Apple TV Accessibility Technologies

Apple TV with Folders (March 2016)
Apple TV with folders. Flickr/Wesley Fryer

Apple TV hosts a series of useful tools to make the system easier to use for people with accessibility problems, physical or visual.

“The new Apple TV was designed with built-in assistive technologies that allow people with disabilities to fully experience television. These powerful yet easy-to-use accessibility features help you spend less time adjusting to your TV and more time enjoying it,” says Apple.

These technologies include Zoom, VoiceOver and Siri support. You can also use some third-party controllers with Apple TV. This brief guide will get you started using the accessibility technologies provided by the system. 

Siri

One primary tool is the Apple Siri Remote. You can ask Siri to do all kinds of things for you, including opening apps, pausing video playback, finding content and more. You can use Siri to dictate into Search fields. Here are more Siri tips.

Accessibility Settings

You can set up these helpful features in Settings>General> Accessibility. You’ll find them grouped into three main categories, Media, Vision, Interface. Here is what each setting can do:

Media

Closed Captions and SDH

When this is enabled your Apple TV will use closed captions or subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH) when playing back media, kind of like a Blu-Ray player.

Style

This item lets you choose how you want any subtitles to look when they appear on screen.

You can select Large, Default and Classic looks, and create your own look in the Edit Styles menu (explained below).

Audio Descriptions

When this feature is enabled your Apple TV will automatically play audio descriptions when they are available. Films available to rent or buy that are equipped with audio descriptions show an AD icon on Apple’s iTunes Store.

Vision

VoiceOver

Toggle this feature on or off using this setting. You can also alter the speed and pitch of VoiceOver speech. VoiceOver tells you exactly what is happening on your TV screen and helps you choose commands.

Zoom

Once this feature is enabled you will be able to zoom in and out of what’s happening on-screen just by pressing the Touch surface three times. You can adjust zoom level by tapping and sliding with two fingers and drag the zoomed area around the screen using your thumb. You can set the maximum zoom level between 2x to 15x.

Interface

Bold Text

You will need to restart your Apple TV once you enable Bold Text. Once this takes place all your Apple TV system text will be bold, so much easier to see.

Increase Contrast

Some Apple TV users find the transparent background on their system makes it hard to see words properly. The Increase Contrast tool aims to help with this, allowing you to Reduce Transparency and change the Focus Style between default and high contrast. High contrast adds a white border around the item you currently have selected -- this makes it much easier to see which app you have selected on the Home Page, for example.

Reduce Motion

All Apple’s iOS-based (iPhone, iPad, Apple TV) boast subtle interface animations that give you the impression of movement behind the window when you are using the device.

This is great if you like this, but if you suffer from vertigo or motion sensitivity it can sometimes cause headaches. The Reduce Motion control lets you enable or disable these motion elements.

There is also the Accessibility Shortcut option. If you find you tweak or change your Accessibility Settings frequently you may want to enable this. Once you have the shortcut switched on you’ll be able to quickly enable or disable selected Accessibility Settings by tapping the Menu button on your Apple Siri Remote (or equivalent) three times.

Switch Control

With an iOS device running Apple TV Remote App, it is possible to use Switch Control to control your TV.

Switch control lets you navigate what is on the screen sequentially, select items and perform other actions. This also supports a variety of Bluetooth-supporting Switch Control hardware, including external Bluetooth keyboards.

How to Create Your Own Closed Caption Style

You can create your own Closed Caption style using the Edit Styles function in the Style menu. Tap this, select New Style and give the Style a name.

Fonts: You can choose between six different fonts (Helvetica, Courier, Menlo, Trebuchet, Avenir, and Copperplate).  You can also choose seven different font styles, including small caps. Press Menu to go back to the preceding selection.

Size: You can set the size of the font to be Small, Medium (default), Large and Extra Large.

Color: Set font color as White, Cyan, Blue, Green, Yellow, Magenta, Red or Black, this is useful if you see some colors better than others.

BackgroundColor: Black by default, Apple also lets you choose White, Cyan, Blue, Green, Yellow, Magenta or Red as the background to fonts.

BackgroundOpacity: Apple TV menus are set to 50 percent opacity by default -- that’s why you can kind of see through them to the content on the screen. You can set different opacity levels here.

BackgroundAdvanced: You can also alter text opacity, edge style and highlights using the advanced tools.

When you have created your perfect font you enable it using the Style menu, where you will see its name appear in the list of available fonts.