Apple has proved that operating system manufacturers can build useful accessibility tools right into their platforms, which makes the lives of its users much better. OS X and iOS are no exception. For example, Apple is shipping some of the best accessibility tools for their users in the form of VoiceOver, screen magnification, and many more. In this article, I’ll highlight three utilities in iOS that can benefit almost any user, regardless of his or her ability. Continue reading, and learn how to get the most out of the built-in accessibility features of iOS.

Read email and other text out loud

Sure, you could use Siri to read through your email or get certain, specific information from the web, but what if you wanted to read any text from the web, email, or other applications? Fortunately, a built-in accessibility feature is available for almost every application that deals with text. Using the double-tap text selection method in iOS, it’ll give you the option to Speak text.

To enable the text-to-speech functionality in iOS, navigate to Settings | General | Accessibility | Speak Selection, and enable the Speak Selection option (Figure A).

Figure A

By enabling the Speak Selection feature of iOS, your device will be able to translate selected text into spoken words.

Note, in this same section, you can tweak the Voices that are used to speak the text, the speaking rate, and whether or not you want the words in the selected text highlighted as each word is spoken.

To use the text-to-speech functions to read email or a web site, open the Mail or Safari app and select some text that you wish to be read aloud. When you tap on the selected text, you’ll have the option to Copy or Speak (Figure B). Selecting Speak will have that text read out loud to you using the same voices that power Siri.

Figure B

Text-to-speech in iOS lets you easily listen to emails, web pages, and text selected in other applications.

Visible alerts with LED flash

Let’s face it, sometimes you can miss a call, even with all of the iOS beeps, bongs, and buzzes. There are other times when all you need is a visual alert to let you know that someone is trying to reach you by phone or text. With the LED flash alerts, you’ll get a flash of light from the back of your device whenever your attention is needed. With this iOS feature, you’ll be able to visually tell when you get a notification on your device instead of relying on sounds or vibrations.

To enable the LED flash alerts, open Settings | General | Accessibility. From here, select the option for LED Flash for Alerts (Figure C).

Figure C

Enabling the LED Flash for Alerts under the Hearing section will cause the camera flash to illuminate when you have a message.

With this enabled, whenever you get a phone call, text message, or notification on your device, the LED flash on the back of the device (if you have an device with a flash) will illuminate, letting you know that you have a message waiting for you.

Adjust your font size

iOS 7 introduced a new font system, allowing applications to take advantage of the ability for users to adjust font sizes to their liking. As a part of this change, users now have the ability to adjust the font system-wide for not only applications created by Apple, but also for compatible third-party applications.

To adjust the font using this new feature, head to Settings | General | Text Size. Once here, drag the slider to the left to make the text smaller, or drag the slider to the right to make the text larger (Figure D). After you’ve made the font size adjustment, this font will be used in all supported applications. The majority of iOS 7 applications support this new feature.

Figure D

You can easily adjust the text size, which will appear on all supported applications.


As you can see, there are many great accessibility features built right into iOS that can unlock even more potential of your mobile devices. These three tips are just the beginning. Do you have an accessibility feature of iOS that you rely on? Let us know what it is and how you use it in the comments below.