Accessibility Features on My Computer

The Mac operating system offers a large offering of accessibility tools for its users including tools for those with visual and hearing impairments. In this post I will guide you through accessing the tools and provide a short description of the tool’s benefits.

(I’m using the latest version of the operating system, Mountain Lion. If you are on an older version of the Mac OS, please visit this site for more information.)

To access the accessibility features, please follow the following steps:

  1. Go to the “Apple” symbol at the top left corner of your screen, then click on System Preferences.
  2. Under the System row, please click on Accessibility.
  3. The sidebar is divided into three sections: “Seeing,” “Hearing,” and “Interacting.”
  4. Let’s start with the “Seeing” sidebar. The Display panel offers a number of options for those with limited or no vision. One of my favorite features was the cursors size feature, as this helps users see where they are navigating with greater ease!
  5. Many visually impaired users rely on the Zoom features built into the operating system.  Here are some of the benefits from listed by an accessibility user: “You can choose how it zooms in specifically. You can smooth images as you zoom, and have the cursor stay at the center. There are a lot of small things that make the entire experience even better. You also have the ability to change the contrast. Instead of having black on white… you can use white on black. This helps some people who have troubles seeing different types of backgrounds. You can also revert to greyscale, which can help those who are color blind” (Pirillio).
  6. The VoiceOver panel is a fantastic feature for those with visual impairments. It essentially works as a screen reader and can help the user navigate a site using their keyboard and/or a trackpad.
  7. The Audio panel offers some options for those users with limited or no hearing. Normally, when an alert occurs, users will hear a noise such as a beep. This panel gives the option for the screen to flash instead.
  8. The Keyboard panel is useful for those with limited dexterity, as key combinations that involve several keys can be difficult.
  9. For those users with limited dexterity or visual impairments, there is an option in the Mouse & Trackpad to control the mouse with the arrow keys.
  10. Speakable items is great for those with limited dexterity or visual impairments. With this tool, users can speak a command to the computer. It can even be set so that the user does not have to key any keys to control their computer. For example, they could say “Computer launch Safari” to start browsing the web.

Apple’s website on Accessibility also offers a nice overview, along with the accessibility options available on the iPad and iPhone. Additionally, there are some fascinating facts on the site! For example, I was blown away that there are many “built-in voices that speak 22 languages: Arabic, English, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French (France), German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Portugal), Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian, Spanish (Spain), Swedish, Turkish, Cantonese, Mandarin (China), and Mandarin (Taiwan). In addition, there are other languages available for download including Greek, Hindi, Indonesian, Romanian, Slovak, and Thai, as well as alternative voices with differing dialects such as English (UK), English (Australia), English (South Africa), and Spanish (Mexico)” (Apple, 2012).


Apple – Accessibility – OS X – Vision. (n.d.). Apple. Retrieved December 2, 2012, from

Pirillo, C. (n.d.). Visually Impaired Software is Built Into Mac OS X – Chris Pirillo. Chris Pirillo. Retrieved December 2, 2012, from


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