iOS 7 Tips & Tricks: Assistive Features

Our iPhones and iPads are capable of amazing things, but most of us only use a small percentage of their abilities. In this weekly column I share tips and tricks for beginners, or anyone who wants to harness the full power of their iDevice. This week, I'm going to give tips for using assistive features for those who have disabilities.

1. For those users who are blind or have low vision, the iPhone's VoiceOver feature helps you navigate the touch screen even if you can't see it. Just touch the screen and a voice will tell you what app is under your finger. Double tap to activate the app. Swipe left and right to move from one app to the next.

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VoiceOver can announce each character on the keyboard as it's touched to help compose an email or make a note and then speak each completed word. It can also move through a web page or document using a virtual control called the rotor. By turning the "dial," VoiceOver reports settings like headings, links, and images.

Just triple click the Home button to access VoiceOver.


2. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, iOS 7 has a variety of ways to help you.

If you buy or rent a captioned movie or TV show from the iTunes Store (look for the CC icon), you can access this feature by going to Settings > General > Accessibility > Subtitles & Captioning. Toggle Closed Captions + SDH to on. 

When you're using headphones, it might be helpful to use mono audio so you can hear both audio channels in both ears instead of stereo's distinct left- and right-channel audio. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > and turn Mono Audio on.


3. Some users may have difficulty with some iOS gestures, like pinch or pushing on the Home button. Assistive Touch lets you adapt the Multi-Touch screen of your iDevice to your unique physical needs. Turn Assistive Touch on by going to Settings > General > Accessibility > and turn Assistive Touch on. From here you can create your own custom gestures to control your device.

The Switch Control feature (found right above the Assistive Touch feature) gives the user options to interact with their screen through an adaptive accessory or even by head movements using the FaceTime camera.


4. If you have cognitive or learning disabilities or attention struggles, Guided Access can help. I gave instructions for this in a post several weeks ago, using the feature to keep a small child from accessing other apps on your screen. But this feature can also help people with autism or other attention and sensory challenges stay focused by limiting an iOS device to one app. 

My son has dyslexia and a feature that is helpful to him is Speak Selection. He can highlight text, tap Speak, and his iPhone will read his selected text out loud. He can also have words highlighted as they're being read, so he can follow along.


For additional features and more detailed descriptions on how iOS 7 can help those with disabilities click here

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Paula is a freelance media broadcaster and journalist. She enjoys life at home with her husband, two kids, two dogs, two cats and a parrot. Her iPhone is never more than two feet away from her and she can't imagine life without it.