Low Vision Accessibility Settings for MacBooks

It's no secret that I love my Surface laptop for college. Recently, a growing number of my friends who have low vision have started to use MacBooks in the classroom, and I was curious as to what accessibility settings they use for low vision. Today, I will be sharing how to configure accessibility settings for MacBooks to support users with low vision and other vision impairments.

Invert colors

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.

How to invert colors

  • Go to "system preferences"
  • Click on "accessibility"
  • Click on "display"
  • Check the box that says "invert colors"
  • Alternatively, use the keyboard shortcut control-option-command-8

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Gestures to zoom on trackpad

There are two different ways to use gestures on the trackpad/mouse for zooming in:

  • Double-tap with two fingers for smart zoom on webpages or documents
  • Use a pinch gesture to zoom in on the screen

How to zoom in on trackpad

Double tap with two fingers or use a pinch gesture to magnify the webpage. Note that your device must support multi-touch gestures.

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Enable VoiceOver

I use the VoiceOver screen reader fairly frequently on my iPad since I have fluctuating vision. VoiceOver is also available for Mac computers and will read all of the information on the screen.

How to enable VoiceOver

  • Go to "system preferences"
  • Click on "accessibility"
  • Click on "VoiceOver"
  • Check the box that says "enable VoiceOver"
  • Configure settings as needed

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Dark mode

I choose to use dark/night mode whenever possible when I'm using different applications. Dark mode increases contrast and reduces glare, so people can use computers at night or in lower-light environments. I have dark mode enabled on Twitter, for my texting app, and many others. My friend M prefers to have dark mode enabled as part of their accessibility settings for MacBooks because it's more comfortable and easier to read in the classroom.

How to enable Dark mode

  • Go to "system preferences"
  • Click on "general"
  • Click on "appearance"
  • Check the box that says "dark"

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Reduce motion

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.

How to reduce motion

  • Go to "system preferences"
  • Click on "accessibility"
  • Click on "display"
  • Check the box that says "reduce motion"

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When I was in elementary school, my teacher and I were trying to figure out how to magnify the screen. One of our solutions was to hold a physical magnifying glass against the screen to see if that helped. Instead, it made my eyes hurt a lot.

Luckily, most computers now have a built-in magnifier that can magnify items on the screen, and Mac is no exception. I frequently use the Zoom magnifier on my iPad to access several different apps and read formula sheets in math class.

How to enable Zoom

  • Go to "system preferences"
  • Click on "accessibility"
  • Click on "Zoom"
  • Choose how you want to activate Zoom- my friends use keyboard gestures, but users can also use the scroll wheel on their mouse.

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Cursor size

Most people that I know with low vision prefer to use a large cursor size. It's easier to track on the screen, plus you're less likely to lose track of where it is.

How to change the cursor size

  • Go to "system preferences"
  • Click on "universal access"
  • Click on the mouse and trackpad pane
  • Use the slider to adjust the size of the cursor

Enlarge dock

My friend finds it difficult to see items on the dock, which is a selection of apps and shortcuts on the bottom of their screen. It helps them tremendously to enlarge the dock and see apps more clearly.

How to enlarge dock

  • Go to "system preferences"
  • Click on "dock"
  • Adjust the slider to change the dock size
  • In addition, you can Magnify icons when you move your mouse over them

Make everything on the screen larger

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.

How to make everything on the screen larger

  • Go to "system preferences"
  • Click on "displays"
  • Click on "display"
  • Select your desired resolution. This will be different for everyone, so feel free to choose a couple of different settings

Related links

Keyboard brightness

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.

How to adjust keyboard brightness

  • Go to "system preferences"
  • Click on "keyboard"
  • Click on "keyboard" again if needed
  • Check the box that says "adjust keyboard brightness in low light"
  • To make the keyboard brighter, press F6 on the keyboard. To make it less bright, press F5 on the keyboard.

Related links

Final thoughts

Some of my friends use all of the accessibility settings listed in this post, while others prefer to use different combinations of these ten settings. It all depends on how much usable vision they have and what task they are doing on the computer. By learning how to enable accessibility settings for MacBooks and other Macintosh computers for low vision, users will be able to access a computer easily and independently.


Read more about: Assistive Technology