For one of my college design classes, I had to rent a MacBook from the library and work with it for about a week. I had never used a Mac prior to this, so I messaged one of my friends and asked them to help me learn more about low vision accessibility settings for MacBooks and figure out how to make MacBook accessible for low vision. Luckily, this process was much easier than I expected, and I was using the MacBook in no time at all. Here’s a list of low vision accessibility settings for MacBooks and Mac computers that can be helpful for users with vision loss.
Why invert colors? Some people find it easier to read light text on a dark background, instead of dark text on a light background. In addition, having a darker background can help with eye fatigue and simplifies the display of the computer.
There are two different ways to use gestures on the trackpad/mouse for zooming in:
Double-tap with two fingers or use a pinch gesture to magnify the webpage. Note that your device must support multi-touch gestures.
VoiceOver is the built-in screen reader for Apple devices that reads all page elements and allows users to use their computer with their keyboard and other gestures instead of a mouse. For users who do not need to have everything on the screen read out loud but still benefit from text-to-speech, Speak Text is a great alternative- more on that in the next section.
For users who need an on-demand screen reader that only reads selected text instead of an entire page, Speak Text is a great option for users. I love using this tool on my iPad as I do not always need to hear information about the UI of a given app, but definitely benefit from having onscreen text read out loud.
Dark mode (sometimes called dark theme or night mode) is a light-on-dark color scheme that uses light-colored text, icons, and graphical user interface elements on a dark background. It has grown in popularity over the years as a way to help prevent screen fatigue for users and make text and other elements easier to read or interact with for longer periods of time. Many users with low vision prefer to use dark mode to help with combatting eyestrain and making text easier to read.
This is one of the lesser-known accessibility settings for MacBooks. I have this setting enabled on my iPad because I can get disoriented from fast-moving images, and the animations can be painful when I have a migraine. This can also help students with photosensitivity who are sensitive to quick-changing displays.
Zoom is the built-in screen magnification tool for Apple devices, which allows users to enlarge items onscreen using a digital magnifier. There are several options for customizing Zoom, including color filters, lens size, and magnification power- these are covered in the Zoom Magnifier post linked below.
Most people that I know with low vision prefer to use a large cursor size. It’s easier to track on the screen and it’s much less likely to go missing on the screen.
Users with low vision may find it hard to see items on the dock, which is a selection of apps and shortcuts on the bottom of their screen. Enlarge Dock can help tremendously with this issue.
If you need to make everything larger on your MacBook, there’s an option to make everything on the screen larger. I don’t recommend doing this if you are frequently working on items where image clarity and quality are critical, since the display will be at a lower resolution.
For people who use a backlit keyboard, users can adjust the intensity of the backlight in system settings. My friend prefers to use the backlit keyboard because it helps them locate keys more easily. This isn’t technically part of accessibility settings for MacBooks, but it is helpful.
For users who are looking for support on how to make MacBooks accessible, I recommend calling the Apple Accessibility Support phone number, as they are well versed in helping to troubleshoot and support issues related to accessibility settings. For students in college, the campus assistive technology specialist can also be a great resource.
By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes, www.veroniiiica.com
Updated July 2023; original post published February 2019
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