Total Voice Control, and Other Mac Accessibility Features Anyone Can Use

Total Voice Control, and Other Mac Accessibility Features Anyone Can Use

Across the board, Apple takes tech accessibility seriously. Their most visible efforts come via iPhone features like Voice Control, but are hardly limited to iOS and iPadOS. While accessibility features are developed to help people with physical impairments, macOS users can also access to a swath of accessibility features that make computers easier for anyone to use.

Make the display easier on the eyes

You probably spend hours every day looking at your Mac’s screen, which isn’t great for your eyes, strictly speaking. Thankfully, these accessibility adjustment can help ease your eye strain.

Navigate to System Preferences > Accessibility > Display, then try out the following features:

  • Reduce Transparency: This removes the blurred menu bar and other sleek elements making them more concrete and easier to see.
  • Increase Contrast: Another useful feature that removes ambiguity from Mac’s interface. Buttons are clearly marked as buttons using an outline.
  • Invert Colours: A ruthless version of the dark mode that turns white into black and black into white, making media and text easier to see (doesn’t work if you have Dark mode enabled).
  • Pointer: From this section, you can change the colour of the mouse pointer, making it easier to see.
  • Colour Filters: This tab has a couple of different colour filters that you can apply. The Greyscale filter will make everything on your screen black and white, which can be useful when trying to cut down on screen time.

Zoom in to text (or anything)

A MacBook’s display is super high-res. That’s great, but it also means, by default, some elements are too tiny to see clearly unless you have perfect vision. You can make everything on the screen bigger by going to System Preferences > Displays. Here, choose the “Larger Text” option, or the unlabelled option next to it, to make the text and interface bigger.

However, let’s say you want to zoom into a document or image only on occasion. That’s where your Mac’s Zoom feature comes in. Go to System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom and enable the “Use keyboard shortcuts to zoom” feature. Now, use Option + Command + Equals to zoom in to the screen. Keep pressing the “=” button while holding the other keys to continue zoning in. Use Option + Command + Minus to zoom back out.

If you’d like to zoom in with your mouse or trackpad, choose “Use scroll gesture with modifier keys to zoom.” Holding down Control will allow you to use your mouse or trackpad’s scroll as a zoom function.

By default, Mac zooms into the entire screen, but you can change that to a Picture-in-Picture mode, or a split-screen, from the “Zoom Style” drop-down in Zoom feature settings.

Use the built-in screen reader

Most of your time is spent looking at text on your screen, but what if you asked your Mac to read things to you instead? Go to System Preferences > Accessibility > Spoken Content and enable the “Speak Selection” option. Next, click the “Options” button next to it to customise your settings. By default, the keyboard shortcut to trigger this feature is Option + Escape, but you can change it to whatever you like. From here, you can also change the highlight colour.

To use the feature, highlight the text that you want to read out loud (use the Command + A shortcut to select all text on a page). Then, use the Option + Escape keyboard shortcut to listen to the text. It’s similar to how things work on your iPhone.

If you’re looking for a solution that’s a bit more advanced, Apple’s VoiceOver feature enables you to listen to whatever is on the screen, then gives you options to interact with it, all using the keyboard. Go to System Preferences > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Enable VoiceOver. It’s worth going through the quick start guide, as implementing the feature can be a bit confusing.

Dictate, don’t type

Can’t type for too long because of motor issues or an RSI? We can all benefit from a break from the keyboard. Your Mac’s Dictation feature lets you type using your voice, and it works surprisingly well.

To enable it, go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Dictation and make sure the feature is turned on. Next, take a look at the “Shortcut” drop-down and change it to what is most convenient to you.

Now, go to any text field, use the keyboard shortcut, and wait for the dictation icon to appear. Start talking, and your Mac will convert your speech to text.

Control everything on your Mac using Voice Control

You can actually take control of everything on your Mac using just your voice. Voice Control is a deeply integrated feature that works across all apps. Once enabled, you can use it to accomplish everything you can using the keyboard and mouse, including reading and writing text, clicking buttons, scrolling through documents, and more.

Go to System Preferences > Accessibility > Voice Control > Enable Voice Control to get started. Follow the setup process to select and download languages. Then, you can ask Siri to “Turn on Voice Control” to go into Voice Control mode. You can ask Siri to turn off Voice Control as well.

When the feature is enabled, you’ll see a little Microphone icon. Start speaking commands like “Open Mail,” “Scroll Down,” and “Click Done,” and the Voice Control feature will do them for you. For even more control, you can choose the menu next to “Overlay” and pick from “Item Numbers” or “Item Grid.” This will place numbers or a grid over your entire screen, allowing you to tell your Mac to interact with a specific number or grid section for a more fine-tuned, accurate experience.

Type to Siri

Siri can be useful on your Mac, but sometimes, you don’t want to ask a question out loud. If you’d rather ask your digital assistant something in private, enable Type to Siri. Head to System Preferences > Siri > Enable Type to Siri. Now, whenever you activate Siri, you’ll see a text box appear, where you can enter your questions.


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