Apple + How To

Use Your Mac More Efficiently with Accessibility Options

Posted on May 24th, 2018 by

Mac Accessibility Options

Apple has long made its operating systems compatible for the largest possible number of people, providing options and tools for those with assistive needs. Accessibility options can help not only those who need to adjust their computing devices for certain limitations, but some of these options can make computing easier for everyone.

Last year, we covered five accessibility features; and now, here are some more options that can help you use your Mac more efficiently.

Browsing accessibility options

Apple groups accessibility options in the Accessibility pane of System Preferences.

Browsing accessibility options

There are 13 sections in this preference pane, and it's a good idea to browse the options to see what they can do.

Display options

One of the display options I always turn on on my Macs is Reduce transparency. While I disagree with the terminology Apple uses—it's translucency, not transparency—what this does is get rid of the see-through menus and menu bars. I find it annoying to try to read a menu when I can see what's behind it. And if the menu bar is translucent, then there's less contrast between the text and the background. Here's an example of a Finder menu, with translucency on at the top and off at the bottom.

Finder display options

Another useful option is increasing the cursor size. As you can see in the screenshot above, I've set mine one notch higher than standard. I find that on a large display, it's much easier to see my cursor when it's larger than normal.

And if you still can't find your cursor? Make sure to activate Shake mouse pointer to locate. If you don't see the cursor, just shake your mouse, or move a finger back and forth quickly on your trackpad, and the cursor gets very large until you stop moving.

Make it bigger

My aging eyes need slightly larger fonts than average so I can read comfortably, but sometimes I get to a web page and the font is still too tiny. Sure, you can press Command-+ in your browser to increase the font size, but sometimes that's not practical, because it messes up the layout.

I use an option in the Zoom settings to be able to zoom in on my display at any time. Check Use scroll gesture with modifier keys to zoom, and choose a key; I use the Control key.

Mac Accessibility

This means that when I need to read something small, I press and hold the Control key and scroll on my trackpad (you can do this with a mouse as well). If you use the Picture in picture option, the zoom only affects a small area around your cursor.

Input device options

There are some useful options to explore in the Mouse & Trackpad section of these settings. If you click the Trackpad Options or Mouse Options button, you can adjust the scrolling speed—this is how much your windows move when you scroll—and whether or not to use inertia. If you use inertia, the scrolled content slows down at the end of the scroll; without inertia it stops more abruptly when you stop scrolling.

Accessibility input device options

In the video below, you'll first see scrolling with inertia, then without.

Shhhh

Sometimes you might want to turn the volume off on your Mac, but still be informed when you get alerts, the kind that manifest as system beeps. In the Audio settings, you can tell your Mac to flash the screen when an alert sound occurs.

Accessibility Audio Options

Whether or not the audio is on, you'll see a brief flash telling you that your Mac is "beeping."

Check out the rest of the accessibility settings; in addition to those describe in this article, you may find others that make working with your Mac more efficient.


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About Kirk McElhearn

Kirk McElhearn writes about Macs, iPods, iTunes, books, music and more on his blog Kirkville. He is co-host of The Committed: A Weekly Tech Podcast, and a regular contributor to The Mac Security Blog, TidBITS, and several other websites and publications. Kirk has written more than twenty books, including Take Control books about iTunes, LaunchBar, and Scrivener. Follow him on Twitter at @mcelhearn. View all posts by Kirk McElhearn →
  • John Robinson

    Increasing the cursor size altered the cursor position in Photoshop, so that a starting point would always be appx. 5 pixels away from your click. Stick w normal cursor size using Drawing programs.

  • John Robinson

    I don’t advise changing the size of the cursor from normal. I did and it effected the cursor drawing in a drawing program. After changing the cursor, the starting point for a drawing or brush was several pixels away from where I first clicked to draw. I don’t advise changing the cursor size if you use drawing programs.