One of my favorite features in the Shortcuts app for iOS is the Gallery, which allows users to view over 100 shortcuts that they can use immediately on their device or customize for their own use. These shortcuts can help make applications easier to use for blind and low vision users, as well as make it easier to access accessibility settings and pair well with other assistive technology options. Here are ten iOS shortcuts for visual impairment that can be accessed from the Shortcuts gallery, no additional downloads or coding required.
What is Shortcuts?
Shortcuts is a free app that is pre-installed on all Apple devices running iOS 13.1 or higher and allows users to complete one or more actions using an application on their device. Users can download shortcuts and automations from the gallery and edit them for their own use, create automations for device settings, create their own low-code shortcuts, or download shortcuts from iCloud links online.
How to find Shortcuts and add them to your device
To add any of the shortcuts listed below to your device, follow these directions from Apple Support:
- In the Shortcuts app on your iOS or iPadOS device, do one of the following:
- iPhone: Tap Gallery at the bottom of the main screen.
- iPad: Swipe from the left edge of the screen, then tap Gallery in the sidebar.
- Curated shortcuts appear organized into category rows (Essentials, Morning Routine, and so on).
- Tap See All to see all the shortcuts in a category.
- Swipe a category row sideways to see other shortcuts in a category.
- Swipe up or down to see more category rows.
- To add a shortcut, tap the shortcut of your choice in the gallery. A description of the shortcut appears, along with a preview of its actions.
- To add the shortcut to your collection, tap Add Shortcut or Set Up Shortcut (if there are setup steps).
- For shortcuts with additional setup steps, follow the instructions that appear, then tap Add Shortcut.
- The shortcut is added to your shortcuts collection.
Users can also search for the name of a shortcut listed below with the Search functionality.
Accessibility Assistant creates a summary of accessibility features and resources by asking questions about a user’s needs. The shortcut then creates a note with information from Apple Support about built-in accessibility features available on their device. There are three different Accessibility Assistant shortcuts available, one for iPhone and iPad, one for Apple Watch, and one for Mac. This feature would be awesome for a vocational rehabilitation lesson, an assistive technology/Expanded Core Curriculum lesson with a Teacher of the Visually Impaired, or for someone who is just starting to learn about assistive technology or a new device.
- How To Make iPad Accessible for Low Vision
- Low Vision Accessibility Settings For MacBooks
- Ten Lessons My TVI Taught Me
Turn text into audio
Turn Text Into Audio creates an audio file using text-to-speech. This does not store the text as an audio file, rather serves as a way to quickly read text out loud as an alternative to the Speak Text feature or similar text-to-speech features.
Say cheese/take a photo
Say Cheese creates a shortcut with Siri that allows users to take photos with a voice command. By default, telling Siri “Say Cheese” will take a photo with the back camera and save it to the camera roll. This allows users to take photos hands free without having to adjust any settings on the camera. Outside of Shortcuts, users can also ask Siri to take a selfie and have the front camera open automatically, but they will still need to press the shutter button to take a picture.
Contact on Home Screen
Contact on Home Screen creates an icon that will allow users to select a contact to text, call, or FaceTime directly from the home screen with a single tap. This is helpful for creating a speed dial or easy way to reach frequent contacts. Tapping the icon will open a menu that gives the user the option to text, call, or FaceTime, though this can be customized.
Toggle accessibility settings (VoiceOver, large print, etc)
Several accessibility settings offer options for toggling the feature on or off, or the option to add automations to enable accessibility settings when a specific app is opened- for example, I might want to turn on VoiceOver automatically when opening a reading application.
Accessibility settings available with the Toggle shortcut include:
- Voice Control
- Reduce Transparency
- Switch Control
- Closed Captions
- Increase Contrast
- Change Text Size
Speak Body of Article
Speak Body of Article will read the text of an article shared as a URL. This shortcut can be run from Safari or another web browser by tapping the share button on a web page. Speak Body of Article is an option for reading webpages without having a screen reader enabled, which is helpful for users with low vision or other print disabilities who may not need the verbose descriptions of a web interface from a screen reader.
Read Later saves a URL from the clipboard to the Apple Reading List folder, Pocket, Instapaper, or Pinboard. Read Later can also be run as an action extension in custom shortcuts, saving the inputted link. Since I have Pocket on my iPad, this is the application I use with Read Later.
Split Screen makes it easier to set up two apps side-by-side and use them together. There are a few different Split Screen shortcuts available, including one that allows users to customize which apps will be split-screened. One of my favorite uses of the Split Screen app is a split view of OneNote or Notability with the web browser so I can take notes more easily.
Markup and Send
Markup and Send allows users to take any image input, use the Markup functionality to add drawings or redact information, and share via iMessage. Markup and Send is activated from the share sheet when viewing a photo.
QR Your Wi-Fi
Instead of struggling to type in a long Wi-Fi password or trying to magnify the password printed on the device, QR Your Wi-Fi converts a user’s Wi-Fi network name and password into a QR code so that this information can be easily shared- users will just need to scan the QR code to connect to the network. To generate the QR code, users will need to manually provide their Wi-Fi network name and password.
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