Low-Vision iOS Device Adaptations

Apple has created the iDevices (iPhone, iPad) with settings to make them accessible for all sorts of situations. One major area of accessibility is for individuals with low-vision!

I am sharing some of the settings that I found most helpful when I sat in a class at The Braille Institute — San Diego. These are not all of the ways to make an iPhone accessible for someone with low-vision — there are dozens, and some can get very complicated with outside software and devices.

To begin…

You’ll need to navigate through these menu settings, most of the adaptations I will talk about below are found in the Accessibility menu option in General Settings:


VoiceOver will read what the person has touched before they tap again to choose it. This way the person can navigate the phone with touch rather than sight, and use auditory cues to determine what they have selected before fully choosing it.

When I was practicing with this feature, I was a bit overwhelmed by the number of auditory cues being given — if I were using this setting personally, I would need to customize the feature. VoiceOver is fully customizable and in the VoiceOver settings, you can:

  • change the voice rate
  • change the tone of the voice
  • change whether it speaks “hints” or the full text (to reduce the number of auditory cues given)

Gestures to use VoiceOver:

  • Single-tap on the screen and your iDevice will read out aloud the item you’ve chosen. You can continue to tap around until you find the item you are looking for.
  • Double-tap on an item to select it.
  • Scrolling is little different when in VoiceOver mode, you have to use three fingers instead of one because one is the signal to read aloud.
  • VoiceOver ON/OFF you can turn this setting on and off by double-tapping with three fingers when the screen is locked.
  • Action command – whether you would like to end a call or take a photo, double-tapping with two fingers tells the phone you would like that app to do something (this action will vary from app to app).
  • Notifications you can customize if you want your notifications and text messages read aloud automatically in the VoiceOver settings.

PRACTICE! — There is a VoiceOver practice setting on all iDevices that can help clients get comfortable with the adaptation before accidentally sending a photo of their dog to their boss, although if I was their boss, I think that would call for a promotion. 🙂

Tap VoiceOver, tap the switch to turn it on

Siri for Occupations

Siri can be used to increase access and success in daily occupations! Below are some of the thousands of commands that can be used with Siri:


  • “Call 911”
  • “Call the Fire Department”

Social Participation

  • “Check my voice mail”
  • “Do I have new voice mail?”
  • “Play my last voice mail”
  • “Play the last voicemail from Scott”
  • “Play voice mail from Julie”
  •  “FaceTime my Son”
  • “When is my wife’s birthday?”
  • “What’s Henry’s address?”
  • “What is my father’s phone number?”
  • “Show John Smiths’s home email address”
  • “Send a message to Michael”
  • “Send a message to Michael saying I” be home in about 20 minutes”
  • “New email to Jenn Smith”
  • “New email to Jenn Smith saying, okay I will see you tomorrow”
  • “Post on Facebook I love my Grandchildren”
  • “Write on my wall – going fishing today”
  • “Tweet Does anyone like LeBron James?”
  • “Read my notifications”
  • “Where is my wife?”
  • “Is my wife at home?”
  • “Let my husband know when I leave work”
  • “Let me know when my son gets home”
  • “Is my daughter at home?”


  • “Create grocery list note”
  • “Find my grocery list note”
  • “Add eggs to my grocery list note”
  • “Read my grocery list note”

Home Management

  • “Reschedule my appointment with Dr. Smith to next Wednesday at 8am”

Work Particpation

  • “Reschedule my 11AM meeting today”
  • “Schedule a meeting with Mark tomorrow at 4PM”
  • “Schedule a conference call with Jamie today at 2PM”

Community Mobility

  • “Where am I?”
  • “How do I get home?”
  • “Directions to home”
  • “Directions to my mom’s home”
  • “Give me public transit directions to Home”
  • “Give me walking directions to Emily”
  • “What’s my next turn?”
  • “What’s my ETA?”
  • “Find pizza near me”
  • “Find coffee near me”
  • “Where’s a good Mexican place around here?”
  • “Find Starbucks near me”
  • “Show ATMs near me”
  • “Is there a pharmacy near me?”

iDevice Settings

  • “Turn on airplane mode”
  • “Turn on Wi-Fi”
  • “Turn on Bluetooth”
  • “Turn on do not disturb”
  • “Turn on flashlight”
  • “Turn up brightness of display”
  • “Make the screen brighter”
  • “Display privacy settings”
  • “Is Bluetooth on?”
  • “Open Phone Settings”
  • “Open music settings”
  • “Open mail settings”
  • “Open Twitter settings”
  • “Turn on/off VoiceOver”
  • “Open VoiceOver settings”
  • “Turn on Invert Colors”
  • “Show me the Accessibility Settings”
  • “Open (application)”
  • “Open Camera”
  • “Get my call history”


The Zoom feature is similar to the Speak Screen feature (below) in the way that it “floats” over your screen at all times, ready to be used when needed. Once it is activated you can drag the Zoom box over what you would like to read and then use these gestures to control the feature:

  • ON/OFF to turn the feature on and off when you need it or want to put it away to look at a photo or something that requires the hole screen — Double-tap with three fingers anywhere on the iDevice screen.
  • Move it to move the zoom box around the screen to select something to magnify, Drag three fingers over the zoom box until you’ve found what you need to view
  • Scroll use one or two fingers to scroll within the Zoom box if  you are reading text

Font Adjustments

Increasing the size of the text and boldening can really increase a client’s success in using their phone! My grandmother uses this option (she has Macular Degeneration, Cataracts, and Glaucoma) and it is really working for her right now. I think this is also a great first “intro feature” that could show a client how customizable and accessible technology can be.

Invert Colors/Grayscale

For low-vision clients, sometimes the color and brightness of the screen can be too much and turning down the brightness of the screen doesn’t cut it. Within the Accessibility menu you can find Display Accommodations — here you can invert the colors, or filter the colors based on the client’s needs. There are grayscale options and color filters. I also really like the Reduce White Point setting because it lessens the intensity of bright colors on the screen.

Image result for invert colors grayscale iphone

Speak Screen

Speak Screen is almost like a remote control for your iDevice screen — if floats over whatever is on the current screen and when you hit play, it reads the screen. I like this for low-vision clients because it is high-contrast making it more easily found.

Are there any settings you have found useful with low-vision clients? How savvy are you with adapting iDevices? I am just getting started, but I have been pleasantly surprised at all of the possibilities.

Photos and Tutorials Adapted from:

The Braille Institute, San Diego, Group Class, https://9to5mac.com, https://www.imore.com, https://www.applevis.com/guides/ios/ios-7-siri-command-list, http://mobilesiri.com/apple-homekit-smart-home/

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