When reading a screen gets more difficult, iOS offers a few easy-to-switch-on aids that can help with the interaction.
When I started putting my glasses on top of my head to read texts on my phone, I knew it was time for an eye exam and an updated prescription. Now, with new progressive lenses, the text is more readable (and I’m less likely to think I’ve lost my glasses because they’re on my noggin).
However, that reminded me that the iPhone includes many ways in which interaction can be more universal, and not just for my aging eyes. The accessibility features in iOS aid in working with a large variety of disabilities and preferences. And iOS 10, which will arrive in the fall, adds even more interesting options.
Let’s start with visual adjustments. In the Settings app, the Display & Brightness preferences dictate not just how much the screen is lit up, but also the color of the screen.
Do you read at night? Activating Night Shift removes the screen’s normal blue tint, making everything a softer, warmer color. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro goes a step further with its True Tone display feature, which adapts the color according to the room’s ambient light.
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On the iPhone 6 and later (except the iPhone SE, which has a smaller screen), you can change the Display Zoom setting so icons and text are slightly larger and more readable on those phones’ larger screens. All models also include a Text Size control that increases or decreases text in apps that support a feature called Dynamic Type. It makes text in the Mail app larger, for example, but doesn’t change the size of text on the Home screen. You can also make all text bold for greater readability.
To make text even larger, go to the Accessibility options in the Settings app and turn on Larger Accessibility Sizes.
Sometimes you need just a temporary boost to text size, in which case you can turn on the Zoom feature. Instead of increasing the size of the letters, Zoom magnifies the full screen or a portion of the screen when you double-tap with three fingers.
Text size isn’t the only factor for readability. The Increase Contrast options reduces transparency in some windows and lets you darken colors — for example, the light blue button text at the top of the screen becomes dark blue.
And speaking of those buttons, are you sometimes confused by iOS using highlighted text as tappable navigation? Turn on Button Shapes to view them with a gray, defined background to make them clearer.
In iOS 10, we’ll see a few great changes interesting improvements, including one of my favorites: Magnifier. This addition, when enabled, lets you use the iPhone as a magnifying glass. Triple-press the Home button to activate the phone’s camera and control how much the image is zoomed. You can adjust the brightness and contrast of the image and turn on the backside LED.
Basically, this is a Read-the-Small-Text-Menu-in-a-Dark-Restuarant feature! I see people get their phones out to illuminate menus all the time, so now we can actually read those beautifully-designed but illegible items.
In iOS 9, you can already invert the screen’s colors or choose to remove color entirely and switch to grayscale mode. iOS 10 puts these items into a new Display Accommodations group that offers many more options. If bright colors are too intense, the Reduce White Point option offers a slider to tamp them down.
Folks who are colorblind can activate filters that adjust the color values based on three types of colorblindness: protanopia (red/green), deuteranopia (green/red) and tritanopia (blue/yellow). There’s also an option to adjust the intensity of the effect, or even apply a uniform color tint to the entire screen.
Of course, there are many more accessibility controls that cover sound such as setting the balance between left and right ears or having a page of text read aloud, and interaction with assistive devices, including new support for TTY in software and hardware in iOS 10.