Your vision does not need to be anywhere near as bad as mine for you to greatly benefit from the accessibility features offered on the Mac. If you are starting to find that the text is getting smaller year after year, you might need to see a doctor about glasses. Also, you will definitely want to keep reading and discover how you can make your Mac life a little easier on the eyes. Look for an upcoming article exploring the same topic, except for iOS.
Resolution: Lower Is Bigger
It’s all right there in the heading,. If you want to make thinks appear larger on your screen, head on over to System Preferences, then tap Display.
Once inside, you will see the option, Default for Display, and Scaled. The first one will likely be selected as that is the default. You want to boldly go where you have likely never gone before. Tap Scaled. And explore a hole new world of possibilities.
You will see different resolution choices all in a row. Select one with a smaller value. And keep doing that until you find the one that makes text, and other elements, big enough for you to see comfortably. Just remember that as things get bigger, fewer things can be displayed on the screen at once. The Mac is pretty good about reflowing the screen so that the interface does not break.
Have you ever lost the cursor? You don’t have to admit it out loud. We have all done it. That thing can be pretty small and hard to find against a large and complicated background. Here is a way to make it bigger, big enough so that you never lose it again:
Head back over to System Preferences where all the magic happens. Then, tap Accessibility. This is where we will spend the bulk of our time. That should come as little surprise given the name of the preference. Inside Accessibility is a pane of options running down the left side of the window. Select Display
Note, while the name is similar, this is a very different animal from the preference where we adjusted resolution. Try not to get them mixed up.
For now, we are only interested in the second slider near the middle of the screen. It is the one that adjusts the size of the mouse pointer. You can make the pointer any size you like. While you’re there, be sure to select that option that says” Shake mouse pointer to locate. That will allow you to find the mouse pointer just by shaking the mouse energetically.
Sometimes, you just need to make something on the screen just a little bigger, and for just long enough for you to identify it and move on. This is common when viewing maps. Fonts tend to be minuscule. And even people with perfect vision need a little help reading them at times.
Go back to Accessibility. This time, select Zoom. It is just above Display. Don’t be intimidated. There are a lot of options in this particular pane. We will return later for another setting. But first, we are going to have to spend some time with Zoom. It is multifaceted and will take a minute to explain. But I promise that a little effort here will pay off big later.
Full Screen Zoom - There are two major zooming options. They have their own unique take on what it means to zoom. The first method is to full screen zoom. This is conceptually difficult for people who have never used accessibility software.
Imagine turning your 13” laptop screen into a 40” screen with everything scaled appropriately. Obviously, everything is much bigger. Equally obvious is the fact that it would be impractical to carry around. Further imagine that you can only view this 40” screen 13 inches at a time. In other words, your lens is the size of your 13” monitor.
If this were an augmented reality monitor, you would move your laptop around in the air to see other parts of the massive screen. But since your laptop is more or less stationary, you have to move around some other way. It is done by simply moving the mouse or trackpad focus around. Rather than simply relocating the pointer to different parts of the screen, it also moves the screen around the virtual display. This is called pan and scan.
You can never see the whole screen at once since there is a lot more screen in the visual display than there is in the real one. That is a major drawback to pan and scan systems. Still, many visually impaired people have found a way to make it work. I’m not one of them.
Picture-in-Picture Zoom - This feature feels like it was named by a person who was completely unfamiliar with accessibility for the visually impaired. They were thinking in terms of a television as an analogy. Instead, you should think more in terms of a handheld magnifying glass. In fact, if you have one handy, pick it up and hold it up to the screen right now. You will see that a portion of the screen is magnified within the physical constraints of the glass you are holding. That is how picture-in-picture works.
Of course, this is not a physical magnifying glass. It is virtual. You get to define the size of the magnifying area. Once defined and activated, you can drag it around the screen as you will. The section within the defined magnifying area will be enlarged to the amount you specify.
Perhaps the best thing about the zoom feature is that setting it up does not disrupt any other operation. So even though it takes a moment to set up, you never have to think of it again until you need it. At that point, it is only a keystroke away.
Setting Up and Controlling Full Screen Zoom
Return to the Accessibility preference pane and select Zoom. Be sure it is set up the way you see it in the illustration. The most important setting is the selection box at the bottom of the screen. When you click the arrow, you will see two options: Full scree and Picture-in-picture. Make sure Full screen is selected.
It is also important to check the box next to, “Use scroll gesture with modifier keys to zoom:” The modifier options are Control, Option, and Command. For now, let’s keep it on Control. But it really doesn’t matter which you choose.
Next, click the Options… button on the bottom right of the screen. Make sure these items are checked: Hold Control + Option to temporarily toggle zoom, and Continuously with pointer. The second describes the behavior of the zoom function as you move your mouse around the screen. There is no absolute right choice. But I find Continuously with pointer the most intuitive choice. It works the way you would expect it to work. After you click OK, you are ready to zoom. Here’s how to do it:
The quickest way to see it in action is to just press the Control and Option keys at the same time. The entire screen will zoom in and be focused in the vicinity of the mouse pointer. When you release the modifier keys, the screen immediately bounces back to normal. Now, let’s try it another way.
Press and hold the Control key. While holding the Control key, use two fingers to scroll up on the trackpad. Keep scrolling until you have your desired level of zoom. This time, when you let the modifier key go, the screen will keep the zoom activated. To deactivate the zoom, just do the same thing in reverse. Press and hold the Control key. Then use two fingers to scroll down till things are back to normal.
You would use quick zoom for the moments when you are having trouble seeing a single thing on the screen such as a screen name, and icon badge, or just to get a better view of an image.
You would use the latter method for when you need more than a moment’s assistance and you don’t want to continue holding the modifier keys. It allows you to just lock in the zoom for as long as you need it, then quickly get out when you’re done.
Setting Up and Using Picture-in-Picture
To set up Picture-in-picture, return to Accessibility, then Zoom. At the bottom of the screen click the arrow that allows you to pick the type of zoom you want. This time, select Picture-in-picture. You will discover an entirely different set of options.
Those new options will be exposed when you click the Options button on the lower right of the screen. Once you do that, you will see a button on the lower-right of that screen marked Adjust Size and Location. Click that, and you will see an area on the scree that looks like a magnifying glass. You can click and drag any part of the square to resize it. When you activate the zoom function, that is how the zoomed area of the screen will appear.
To use this option, just repeat the same techniques you learned from the full screen zoom. All the same rules apply.
In part two, we will explore the many ways of using speech. While we will briefly mention VoiceOver basics, there is much more to it than that. See you next time.