How to Use and Customize iPhone Accessibility Settings

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

The iPhone comes equipped with powerhouse accessibility features that make it possible to customize the way you interact with your phone. Whether it's locking apps, 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 seeing, hearing, and motor skill differences to ensure everyone has the power to send a message, get directions, take and send a selfie, and engage in a live interactive phone call.

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 shortcut for your favorite features with a triple-click of your Home or Side 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 access Siri settings, go to Settings > Accessibility > Siri.

To type Siri commands instead of speaking them, activate Type to Siri. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Siri, and toggle on Type to Siri.

Speak Screen

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

To activate Speak Screen, go to Settings > Accessibility > Spoken Content and toggle on Speak Screen. Adjust options, such as the voice you want to use and its speaking rate. Afterward, swipe down with two fingers from the top of your screen, and you'll hear the screen's contents.

iPhone Accessibility Settings with Spoken Content and Speak Screen highlighted

VoiceOver

The primary difference between VoiceOver and Speak Screen is that VoiceOver not only reads the screen but also helps you navigate the screen. This can be extremely helpful to anyone with vision challenges. VoiceOver gives a description of the area you're 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.

To activate VoiceOver, go to Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver. Toggle on VoiceOver, then adjust the speaking rate, speech, and more.

When you activate Navigate Images, VoiceOver can also scan an image with the options of speaking image descriptions, including describing the facial expressions of people in your photos.

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.

Dictation

Dictation converts your words into type. To access this feature on your iOS keyboard, select the microphone and start speaking. Your words instantly appear on the screen; send a message or an email without typing a word.

Zoom

Is reading the small screen difficult? The iPhone Zoom feature enlarges your screen with custom magnification levels. You have the option to zoom the full screen or use the picture-in-picture view. Activate iPhone Zoom under Settings > Accessibility > Zoom. Toggle on Zoom, then use the slider to set your Zoom level.

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.

Accessibility settings with Zoom and the Zoom toggle highlighted

Text Size

Unlike Zoom, text size adjustments leave other page elements at their original size while enlarging the text. This setting applies to any apps that support Dynamic Type. Customize how large you want the fonts to appear, and whether you want the text bolder and darker.

To access text size options, go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Text Size and increase size using the slider. Toggle on Bold Text if you like.

There are even more text size options to adjust. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Display & Text Size, where you can opt for larger text, bold text, additional contrast, and more.

Magnifier

When the iPhone Magnifier is activated, your phone becomes a hand-held magnifying glass, enlarging items in real life up to 500 percent. This is helpful in situations like reading small print.

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 Settings > Accessibility > Magnifier.

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 easily, ask Siri to help. Say, "Hey Siri, FaceTime [contact]."

Guided Access

Guided Access is an iPhone accessibility feature that lets you lock the iPhone to a single app. This is a perfect setting for any of us who have trouble staying "on task."

With Guided Access 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, hand your phone to someone to watch a video or read a book, and they won't be able to look at your messages or email. To find Guided Access, go to Settings > Accessibility > Guided Access. Then, set your Guided Access passcode.

Accessibility Settings with Guided Access and "Set Guided Access Passcode" highlighted

Display and Text Options

In the Display & Text settings, further customize how your screen appears, including color filters and brightness levels. To find these options, Go to Settings > Accessibility > Display & Text.

Auto-Brightness saves battery by adjusting the screen light level to match the surrounding light. Smart Invert (limits the invert to user-interface areas) and Classic invert reverse display colors.

Accessibility options with Display & Text size settings highlighted

If you have a specific type of color blindness, Color Filters let you remove specific colors and also includes a Grayscale option that gives your phone a retro black-and-white look.

Color Filter accessibility options showing Grayscale

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 > Accessibility > Audio/Visual and then toggle on LED for Flash Alerts.

Mono Audio

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

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

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 works with third-party assistive devices. Switch Control makes it possible for any Apple device to be customized to match different levels of physical limitations. To access Switch Control, go to Settings > Accessibility > Switch Control.

AssistiveTouch

Apple has made the iPhone easier to use for anyone with physical limitations with AssistiveTouch, 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 > Accessibility > Touch. Toggle on AssistiveTouch and 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, use the Shift key to switch between uppercase and lowercase letters. Find this option under Settings > Accessibility > Keyboards.

Voice Control for Accessibility

Voice Control is a helpful accessibility feature that allows for hands-free voice control of your iOS device. There's no need to use a wake word, like "Hey, Siri," to activate Voice Control. When you have it set up, say things like, "Open Messages," "Go home," and "Tap" to navigate around your phone.

Voice Control supports many languages, but you'll see options related to the language you're currently using on your iOS device. Notably, Voice Control supports Spanish in Mexico, Spain, and the United States, and supports English in the U.K., Australia, Canada, and the U.S.

Access Voice Control by going to Settings > Accessibility > Voice Control.

Accessibility Shortcuts

To easily access a frequently used Accessibility setting, go to Settings > Accessibility and tap Accessibility Shortcut and then tap your most-used feature. If you have an iPhone X or later, triple-click the Side button to access the feature. For older iPhones, triple-click the Home button.

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

Was this page helpful?