New for accessibility in iOS 10, macOS, Apple TV & Apple Watch: Magnifier, Dwell Control, taptic time & more


Apple briefly mentioned some accessibility enhancements during its press event this week — watchOS 3 is adding wheelchair specific optimizations to Apple Watch — but iOS 10, macOS Sierra, tvOS 10 and watchOS 3 also have many other improvements to assist users with motor, vision, hearing, and learning impairments. Here’s the rundown…

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iOS 10 magnifier: In iOS 10 there is a new accessibility feature called Magnifier that lets you use the camera as a magnifying glass with a custom UI. The magnifier UI gives you access to the camera flash, and the ability to lock focus and grab a freeze frame. You can also adjust color filters to increase contrast for easier viewing. This is what it looks like:

You can enable it in Settings>General>Accessibility>Magnifier, and then activate it with a triple tap of the home button.

Switch Control for Apple TV: macOS and iOS devices have long had an accessibility feature called Switch Control, a feature that allows a user with limited mobility to navigate the operating system using a single hardware switch. New this year is support for the feature on Apple TV with the new tvOS release. As pictured above, the feature on Apple TV will offer two options: a cursor to highlight elements on-screen like on iOS and macOS, or optionally an on-screen version of the Siri Remote. And users already using Switch Control on iOS or macOS will be able to set it up easily on Apple TV without assistance.


Dwell Control: Another new accessibility feature from Apple this year is Dwell Control, which brings support to macOS for hardware that uses a headband or eye movements to track input from users with limited mobility. The feature allows these devices to control the mouse, using dwelling signals and timers to control actions. It’s customizable much like Switch Control.


Vision improvements: To assist with color blindness, Apple this year has expanded iOS, macOS, and tvOS color adjustments including adding the ability to tint the entire display a certain color.


watchOS 3: On top of the new wheelchair optimizations for Apple Watch — “time to stand” settings become “time to roll”, two wheelchair specific workouts, and optimized activity rings for wheelchair pushes — users can now discretely check time with a voiceover feature that uses haptic feedback to tell you the time. 


Hearing: Apple already supports hardware TTY devices for the hearing impaired, but now iOS 10 supports software TTY (pictured above). It doesn’t require any additional hardware, can place calls to non-TTY numbers through your carrier, and it works with legacy TTY hardware. The app also has TTY-specific QuickType predictions.


Learning: Lastly, Apple is making improvements to speech selection in iOS 10 to help users with Dyslexia. And new audio feedback for typing uses Voice Over to read back text typed into iOS.

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Avatar for Jordan Kahn Jordan Kahn

Jordan writes about all things Apple as Senior Editor of 9to5Mac, & contributes to 9to5Google, 9to5Toys, & He also co-authors 9to5Mac’s Logic Pros series.