How to Use and Customize iPhone Accessibility Settings

Use iPhone's Accessibility options to customize your phone's features

The iPhone comes equipped with a powerhouse of accessibility features that make it possible to customize the way you interact with your phone. Whether it's as simple as locking apps so it can't easily be closed, filtering out white light to reduce glare, turning a digital book into an audiobook, or getting help reading the fine print in a darkly-lit restaurant, the iPhone has an accessibility option to help.

Apple has given special care to those with blindness, hearing and motor skills to ensure everyone has the power to send a message, get directions, take and send a selfie and to engage in a live interactive phone call. We will also include important iOS 11 updates that enhance the iPhone's standard accessibility features.

This guide will let you know what's possible with iPhone accessibility options and how they work. Once you've found an option you want to activate, slide the toggle button on the right-hand side to turn the option on. Slide it back to turn off the setting. Some settings may require a restart of your phone to activate. Also, there is a way to create a short-cut for your favorite features with a triple-click of your Home Button.

Let's get started by opening up the iPhone accessibility options, and discover how you can put them to work for you.

Siri

Siri is a handy assistant when it comes to accessibility on an Apple device. Much like Google Home or Amazon's Alexa, Siri is Apple's version of a voice-activated personal digital assistant. Siri listens, talks, and understands the context of your requests, so you can ask Siri to look up information for you, remind you of scheduled appointments, send messages, look up directions and answer questions about the weather. To find Siri, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Siri.

Speak Screen

Screenshot of iPhone Speech Accessibility options
iPhone Speech Accessibility options.

With Speak Screen activated, Siri will read everything that is on your screen. This includes text messages, emails, web pages and a Kindle or a book in your iCloud library.

To get Siri to start speaking, turn on Speak Screen under Settings > Accessibility > Speech. Once activated, hold the Home Button and say, "Speak Screen." Or, you can swipe from the top of the phone down with two fingers. It's important to start at the top of the phone, and not the screen when swiping. In the options area, you can adjust the voice’s dialect and speaking rate and have words highlighted as they’re being read.

New in iOS 11 is “Type to Siri,” which allows those with voice impairments to use the onscreen keyboard to ask Siri questions by typing, instead of speaking.

VoiceOver

The primary difference between VoiceOver and Speak Screen, is that VoiceOver not only reads the screen but helps you navigate the screen. Extremely helpful to anyone with vision impairments, VoiceOver gives a description of the area you are touching on the smart screen and continues to give you voice prompts as your finger moves across the screen. Once you've found the app that you want to open, double-tap. Flick left and right to move from one element to the next, while VoiceOver continues to guide you by reading the content on the screen. VoiceOver will also let you know the battery level.

Once VoiceOver is activated, you can adjust the speaking rate, pitch, and language, as well as other options to ensure you receive the information you want, the way you want the information delivered. Turn on VO at Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver.

If you need to input text, VoiceOver will read each character aloud as you touch it, and again to let you know you've entered it. VoiceOver supports braille chord in 6 and 8 dot Braille.

Text Detection

New in iOS 11 is the ability for VO to scan an image for text and will read it aloud when VO is activated. Another new feature is that VO can describe the setting and the overall tone of an image. When looking at photos in your photo library, VoiceOver will let you know the facial expressions of people in your photos.

Dictation

Dictation converts your words into type. You can access this feature on your iOS keyboard by selecting the microphone and start speaking. Your words instantly appear on the screen, so that you can send a message, or an email without typing a word.

Zoom

Too hard to read the small screen? The iPhone Zoom feature enlarges your screen with custom magnification levels between 100-1500 percent. You have the option to zoom the full screen or use picture-in-picture view. Activate iPhone Zoom under General > Accessibility > Zoom.

Screenshot of iPhone's Zoom Accessibility option with Zoom Compass on top
Use iPhone's Zoom Accessibility Option to Zoom the page.

Once activated, double-tap the screen with three fingers, and drag three fingers to move around the screen. You also have the option to select whether you want to see the Zoom controller on the screen while Zooming. Activating Zoom's Smart Typing feature creates a Window Zoom with the keyboard so that the text is zoomed, while the keyboard stays the same size.

Font Adjustments

Unlike Zoom, the Font Adjustment option enlarges only the text, leaving all of the other elements on the page at the original size. When activated, the text on iOS apps. and some third-party apps. become larger. You customize how large you want the fonts to appear, and whether you want the text bolder and darker.

To open, go to Settings > General > Display & Brightness > Text Size and increase size using the slider. You can make the characters even larger in Settings > General > Accessibility > Larger Text. Enable Bold Text in Settings > General > Accessibility > Bold Text.

Magnifier

When the iPhone Magnifier is activated, your phone becomes a hand-held magnifying glass, enlarging items in real-life to let you read the fine print, up to 500%. The magnifier uses the iPhone's built-in camera, along with the option to turn on the flash to light up the object you're trying to see. Find the magnifier under General > Accessibility > Zoom. Once you've turned the magnifier on, tap the home button three times to quickly turn on the Zoom feature.

FaceTime

FaceTime is Apple's voice over IP (VoIP) calling service that allows iPhone users to make video calls to any other Apple user for free, through Wi-Fi or cellular connections. In addition to making face-to-face meetings possible across time zones, FaceTime allows deaf people to communicate via sign-language. To make a FaceTime call, press and hold the Home Button and ask Siri to FaceTime "name of contact." You can also find a FaceTime option when you select a contact. 

Guided Access

FaceTime can be used in place of voice calls.
FaceTime can be used in place of voice calls.

Guided Access is an iPhone accessibility feature that lets you lock the iPhone to a single app, a perfect setting for any of us who have trouble staying "on-task." When Guided Access is enabled, only one specific app can be used, and there's no way to exit without entering the password. The feature is useful for kids in educational settings, and it can also create a "Guest Mode" option. For example, you can hand your phone to someone to watch a video or read a book, and they will be unable to look at your messages or email. Guided Access is in Settings > General > Accessibility > Learning.

Display Accommodations

Display Accommodations allows you to customize the way your screen appears, including the colors and brightness levels. Auto-Brightness saves battery by adjusting the screen light level to match the surrounding light. Invert Colors, reduces glare in low-light by reducing bright colors, ideal for reading in the dark.

Screenshot of IPhone Display Accommodation option to Invert Colors, Color Filters, Brightness and Reduce White Point
iPhone's Display Accommodations options to customize the way your screen looks.

Smart Invert is an iOS 11 enhancement, which limits the invert to user interface (UI) areas so that graphics, images, and icons still hold their original colors.

Screenshot of Display Accommodations Settings of Inverted Colors, with Smart Invert on
Smart invert excludes images and media.

The images on this webpage opened in Safari, below, show how images will appear when Invert Colors are activated with Smart Invert.

Screenshot of iPhone screen with Smart Invert on, showing a black screen, with photos maintaining original color.
With Smart Invert, photos and images remain unchanged.

Grayscale eliminates all the colors on your phone, giving you a retro black and white look to your phone.

iPhone screenshot of Color Filters under Display Accommodations under Accessibility
iPhone gives you the option to use Color Filters as an accommodation for color blindness.

If you have a specific type of color blindness, Color Filters let you remove specific colors. To find these options, Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations.

Typing Feedback Software TTY

Apple supports Text Telephone (TTY), without the need for extra TTY hardware, to allow iPhone users to type messages back and forth using the iPhone. Transcripts are saved in the call history of the Phone app.

Visible and Vibrating Alerts

With the option to see alerts, anyone who is unable to hear alerts can customize the iPhone LED Flash setting to flash a light when a message, alarm or any notification comes through the phone. The flash comes through the iPhone camera and can be customized for different patterns and alerts. To activate, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Toggle LED for Flash Alerts.

Mono Audio

If you have trouble hearing out of one ear, turn on Mono Audio, push sound through both speakers equally so that you don't miss a beat. Find this setting at Settings > General > Accessibility > Mono Audio

Closed Captions

Apple supports closed captions (CC), open captions and subtitles. You can even customize fonts to make them larger and easier to read. Look for the CC icon on items in the iTunes Store.

iPhone screenshot showing the options for Styles of Subtitles & Captioning for iPhones accessibility options
Customize the iPhone CC options by choosing size and style of text for subtitles.

For those who are deaf-blind, iPhone lets VoiceOver users access closed caption and subtitle tracks through their braille displays. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Subtitles & Captioning > Style to find options for customization.

Interaction

Under the Interaction Option is a Reachability option that allows you to double tap the home button to bring the top of the screen within reach, perfect for users with smaller hands who want full access to the larger iPhones. Settings > General > Accessibility > Switch Control.

Switch Control

Regardless of physical limitations, anyone can use accessibility technology to use their iPhone through an adaptive accessory with an external switch. Actions can be simplified, or you can create new ones to support your preferences. Switch Control extends to any Apple device synced with the same iCloud account, and also work with third-party assistive devices. Switch Control makes it possible for any Apple device to be customized to match different levels of physical limitations.

AssistiveTouch

Apple has made the iPhone easier to use for anyone with physical limitations with Assistive Touch, while also creating a workaround for anyone with a broken Home Button. AssistiveTouch works by creating a floating rotor screen that contains specific features that you choose. For example, by adding the Home Button, you will have a virtual Home Button floating around your screen, allowing you to press the virtual home button instead of the physical home button. Create your own shortcuts by customizing your virtual layout in AssistiveTouch by tapping Settings > General > Accessibility > AssistiveTouch. You'll find options to control how long you touch, the number of taps, and to ignore repeat touches. 

Keyboard

With an option to show lowercase keys, you can use the shift key to switch between uppercase and lowercase letters. Find this option under Settings > General > Accessibility > Keyboard.

Triple-Click for a Shortcut to your Favorite iPhone Accessibility Options

Now that you've seen how you can use iPhone's Accessibility options to simplify your life, there is a way to skip the Settings > General > Accessibility step, and make a specific setting quickly accessible with a triple-click of your home button.

Screenshot of iPhone Accessibility Shortcut items with Magnifier, Smart Invert Colors, Zoom and Guided Access checked
Make a list of iPhone Accessibility menu items for triple-click home.

The triple-click option is perfect for any options that you use frequently, but don't want to be on all the time. To customize your triple-click shortcut, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut, at the very bottom of the screen. Tap each option you'd like to add to your menu, and a checkmark will appear. Tap again to remove it from the list.

When you select more than one Accessibility Option, when you triple-click, a menu of options with appear. Simply tap the name of the Accessibility Option you want to activate.

iPhone screenshot of Accessibility Menu shortcuts that appear with a triple-click of the Home Button
Triple click the Home Button to see a menu of pre-selected accessibility shortcuts.