Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Utilizing the Accessibility Options to Customize your iPhone

With smart phone displays changing sizes in cycles between small and large and back to small again, there are times when we find ourselves struggling to adjust.  Additionally, operating system updates can affect the usability of features and application updates also change features.  All of these updates affect each of us differently.  Some updates we are happy to have, and others not so much.  Occasionally an entirely new phone seems like it will be the answer to all of our issues and that may or may not turn out to be true.

One of the ways we can adapt our phones to better meet our needs is by customizing the accessibility features available on our smart phones.  This post is discusses the Vision and Hearing accessibility features available on the iPhone 5S running OS 7.  Keep in mind, many of these features are compatible with older iPhone models and operating systems as well as on Android devices.

The Accessibility options discussed below can be found by going to Settings, General, and then Accessibility.


Vision Section
Each of the settings listed below can be customized to increase the ease of visibility with different parts of the phone and are listed in the order they appear in Accessibility.

Voice Over
Turning the voice over feature on activates an audio feature to announce the text of items based on the way you touch the screen as well as announcing incoming alerts.  The announcing speed for voice over can be increased or decreased and the  language and dialect can be set.  This feature takes some practice to become fluid using, as it changes the actions that would normally occur when you touch the screen in certain ways.  For instance, a single touch will announce the text for the area you touched, like the name of a button, but will not activate the button.  Double touching, rather than single touching, activates whatever was touched while three fingers swiping the screen move it up or down according to how you swipe.  Incoming messages are announced as they come in and include what type of message and who was the sender.  There are plenty of other commands that can be used and there is a practice section that explains how each type of touch you use will work with voice over activated.  Using the practice area is strongly suggested if you plan to use this feature.  

Zoom
Turning on the zoom feature allows you to zoom into any screen at any time.  This feature is helpful for settings menus and other applications that do not normally allow you to zoom in when it would be helpful.  With this feature activated, a three finger double tap automatically zooms in and out.  Use three fingers to move the screen around when already zoomed in, or double tap with three fingers and drag to manually change the level of zoom.

Speak Selection
Turning on the speak selection feature will activate an audio feature that provides a "Speak" button as part of the regular pop up menu when a section of text has been selected.  Press the "Speak" button and the text will be announced, or press the "Pause" button that appears as a selection is being announced to pause at any time.  The announcing speed can be set to fast or slow and the language can be changed.  This feature also offers a highlight feature which highlights the words in the selection as they are being spoken.  This feature is helpful for announcing items without changing the overall use of the smart phone, unlike the Voice Over feature, which announces everything you touch or select and changes the way the phone is used.

Speak Auto-text
Turning the speak auto-text feature on announces auto-corrections and auto-capitalizations made by the auto-correct feature as you type.  This feature works in email and messages, but if you type fast the words being announced sometimes get cut off.  However, it is obvious when a word is being announced so you can always stop to see what was altered.

Larger Text
Clicking on the Larger Text feature allows you to slide a bar to have larger or smaller text in applications that support this feature.  As you slide the bar the text on the page changes so you can see what each text size will look like.  If you turn on the Larger Text feature, the size of the text that was the default largest size will become the middle of the slider bar and you can adjust the text even larger.  

 



Button Shapes
When the iPhone first came out, all of the settings and applications had buttons for things that could be activated like turning features on, going back a screen, or sending an email.  Over the years, clickable actions no longer take the shape of buttons.  Instead, the text is clicked on to activate whatever the action is.  For some people this can be harder to navigate because the lines defining the edges of the clickable area do not exist.  Use this feature to show the actual button shapes for all menu items.

Increase Contrast
Click on the increase contrast feature to access settings that will allow you to increase the contrast on screens so items on the screens are easier to see.  Turn on the Reduce Transparency setting to remove the transparency on some of the backgrounds like the keyboard in messages, the static apps in the dock at the bottom, as well as icons inside of folders.  This feature turns backgrounds that were mainly transparent to a grey preventing two images stacked on top of each other from both being visible at the same time.  This reduces the distraction of the background images.  Turn on the Darken Colors option to darken menu option text making the text stand out from the background images.  Turn off the Reduce White Point to increase the brightness of whites allowing other colors to stand out against the white better.

Hearing Section
Each of the settings listed below can be customized to increase the ease of hearing with different applications.

LED Flash for Alerts
Turning on the LED flash for alerts feature uses the camera flash on the back of the phone to alert you when any alert comes in.  This feature will quickly flash three times and works when your phone display is completely turned off.

Phone Noise Cancellation
Turning on the phone noise cancellation feature reduces the amount of background noise picked up by the microphone during a phone call.  Background noise can be distracting to the other person on the call so this feature is helpful when talking places where you do not want the background noise to be included in the call.

Adjusting Audio Volume Balance
Move the audio volume balance slider to the left or right to increase the volume for that side of headphones or speakers.  This setting is helpful when you have a hearing deficiency and can help adjust the ability to hear clearly when there is a hearing issue in one ear only.

Using the accessibility features listed above help you customize the settings on your iPhone so you can see and hear more easily when using many of the available applications and features.  Each accessibility feature is distinct with multiple settings based on the feature you are setting.   Changing these features can make viewing and hearing messages, emails, applications, and using the phone for everyday things much easier than using only the default settings.

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