Discovering the Many Accessibility Features of the Apple Watch

Published October 20, 2022

The Apple Watch is a diverse device that offers many features that make life simpler for its users. Smartwatches like the Apple Watch are great tools for monitoring health and fitness data. The Apple Watch is also a handy device for staying connected when larger devices can’t be used.

Luckily for health nuts and Apple die-hards with disabilities, the Apple Watch offers a wealth of accessibility features for users with visual, auditory, and motor skill impairments. Let’s go through each in turn, starting with how to access the device’s accessibility menu.

Accessing Apple Watch’s accessibility menu

The accessibility menu for the watch can be accessed from either an iPhone paired with the device via Bluetooth or through the device itself. If accessibility preferences have already been set up on the connected iPhone, it’s probably best to adjust settings for the watch from the phone as well. 

For access via an iPhone, open the “Watch” application on the phone and select “Accessibility.”

For access via the watch itself, head to “Settings” then “Accessibility.”

Additionally, “Siri” can be used to access many of the watch’s accessibility features.

Features that aid individuals with visual impairments

VoiceOver

VoiceOver on the Apple Watch essentially functions as a built-in screen reader to assist in perceiving visual content. When VoiceOver is enabled, a user can tap on text to have it read aloud. 

VoiceOver can also describe the content of images by using Siri to access alt text or image descriptions.

VoiceOver also allows users with full vision loss to operate an iPhone using only touch and sound navigation.

Zoom

The Zoom feature is a built-in screen magnifier that can make text larger. Because the Apple Watch screen is small, perceiving on-screen information can be difficult for users with low vision. So Zoom is a handy feature that makes text more perceivable.

To activate Zoom, use two fingers to zoom into the screen or use the Digital Crown on the watch face to move across the screen by rows.

Bold Text

This feature can make all text appear in bold automatically, making it easier to read for low vision users. 

On/Off Labels

For individuals who might have difficulty perceiving details on the watch, this feature will display an additional label near on/off switches to make it easier to identify when settings are on or off.

Grayscale

For individuals who have difficulty viewing color content or get distracted by color content, the Grayscale feature enables them to switch to a monochrome display.

Reduce Transparency

To aid individuals who have difficulty perceiving color contrast, this feature can be used to increase the contrast on the watch screen. It does so by reducing the transparency of the background behind some screen elements such as “Alerts” and “Siri.” 

Reduce Motion

For individuals who have trouble perceiving visual information when images are in motion, this feature can be used to reduce motion on the watch face by limiting animation or automatic resizing the interface when opening or closing apps. 

Chimes

This feature can function as a timer or alert to aid individuals who have trouble perceiving the time display visually or who have trouble keeping track of time without reminders. When activated, this feature can be set to play a chime and deliver haptic feedback on the hour or at any other time set by the user.

Features that aid individuals with motor skill impairments

Side Button Click Speed

Individuals with mobility disabilities or other motor skill impairments might require extra time to successfully double-click the side button of the watch. This feature allows users to adjust the speed required to complete a successful double-click. Users can choose between the default speed, a “slow” setting, or a “slowest” setting. 

Touch Accommodations

Some users with motor skill issues may require special touch functionality. This feature allows users to adjust how the Apple Watch responds to touch. 

This feature allows for several adjustments, including adjusting the hold duration, which is the amount of time required for a user to touch the screen for the device to recognize it as a “touch.” Using this feature, users can also tell the device to ignore repeated touches and treat them as a single touch. 

Auto-Answer Calls

This feature allows users to instruct the device to automatically answer calls, rather than waiting for the user to manually swipe on the watch or phone to answer. This feature makes answering calls simpler and hands-free for users with mobility issues.

Features that aid individuals with auditory impairments

RTT

Enabling this feature allows users to make and receive real-time text (RTT) phone calls. This means that users can communicate using text input during phone calls via the “Watch” app on the paired iPhone or directly from the Apple Watch.

Mono Audio

For users who experience hearing loss or hearing issues in only one ear, this feature ensures all auditory output can be perceived no matter which ear they rely on. It’s common for some parts of audio content to only be channeled to the left ear or the right ear. When this occurs, it creates a barrier to access for those who only hear well with one ear. 

This feature allows the content that would only be played via the left or right audio channels to be played via both. This gives users access to all audio when listening to content using Bluetooth headphones. This feature also lets users adjust the audio balance so they can increase or reduce the volume for each ear. 

Headphone Notifications

For users with sensitive ears or concerns about damaging their hearing, headphone notifications can help prevent exposure to audio that would cause hearing damage. This feature allows users to enable the device to send notifications through the headphones to let them know when the volume or duration of the audio is reaching levels that could cause damage. 

Audio Transcriptions

For users who are connected to a HomePod, this feature sends transcriptions of audio announcements that would normally play on the HomePod device to the Apple Watch where they can be read as text.

Hearing Devices Complication

In Apple-speak, “complications” are shortcut buttons that can be viewed on the Apple Watch face and can quickly take the user to a preferred app or function. This feature can be used to connect the watch to a user’s hearing device. Users can choose to have the “Mic Volume” or “Program” shortcuts appear on the watch face when connecting to a hearing device.

More on Accessibility Shortcuts

Users can also customize what shortcuts appear on the Apple Watch face. To customize options, begin by opening the Watch app on a paired iPhone. Then select “Accessibility” and scroll to find and select “Accessibility Shortcut.” From there, users can choose between three shortcut options: VoiceOver, Zoom, and Touch Accommodations. 

 

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