Several of my more senior clients have problems seeing the screen and its contents clearly.
One such is a Mac user who asked me this week if I could help. When checking out the options available, it soon became clear that they fall into one of two types – those that are easy to configure and use, and those that are much tougher. I can’t imagine why any user, for instance, would want to use a combination of four keys at once, and I found the voice commentary option very difficult to follow.
So, I picked out some easier, but significant, options and the client feels that these will help her. If she comes back to me in six months and asks what else can be done, I’ll be happy to look at some of the more challenging options with her. In the meantime, these easier options will hopefully make her life easier and will improve her confidence and enjoyment of her fairly new Mac.
All of these options are to be found in “System Settings” (ie “System Preferences” as it used to be called). To access this, click on the apple at the top left of all Mac screens. For a fuller explanation of the options available, see the link at the bottom of each section below. Note that there is a dropdown box at the top of the linked pages for you to select your version of the operating system. Not all options listed below may be available in all versions of macOS.
System Settings > Accessibility > Zoom
I have listed this option first as my client thought this would offer her the best improvement in usability.
There are several ways to rapidly increase the size of everything on the screen. I found that the easiest way to zoom in is to use “scroll gesture with modifier key”. The “scroll gesture” is moving two fingers up or down the trackpad. If using a desktop Mac, you probably don’t have a trackpad, but this isn’t a problem if you have an Apple “magic mouse” as running a finger forwards and backwards over the top of the mouse produces the scroll gesture. Keep the modifier key depressed while zooming in or out. The “modifier key” is either Control, Option, or Command.
2) Increase Contrast and Reduce Transparency
System Settings > Accessibility > Display
Under this option I would definitely recommend turning on the “increased contrast” option. This doesn’t change the contrast of everything on the screen. Instead, it “sharpens” or “hardens” the borders around items such as windows and “buttons” that normally have a very soft, muted, edge that can be difficult to recognise for users with impaired vision. I would also recommend turning on “Reduce Transparency” to improve the distinction between different areas on the screen.
3) Pointer Size and Colour
System Settings > Accessibility > Display
It’s definitely worth changing the colour of the pointer and also its size. Be aware, though, that making the pointer too large can obscure text in places like tooltips that appear under (ie behind) the pointer. Changing the colour is only available on recent versions of macOS.
4) Desktop wallpaper
System Settings > Wallpaper
Try using a plain colour as the desktop wallpaper (ie the desktop background) as photos used as wallpaper can be very distracting and make it very difficult to find specific icons on the desktop. This is, of course, made much more difficult if the wallpaper image or colour changes constantly. You may find that a light, neutral, pastel colour makes icons stand out the best.
5) Text Size
There isn’t one single control for changing the size of all text. If that is what you want to do, it’s probably best to concentrate on the zoom option described above. The size of individual types of text such as desktop labels, the contents of Finder, the text in sidebars, can be changed individually as detailed in the link below:
MacOS offers a lot of different ways of changing how things appear on screen, only a few of which are mentioned here. If you are not used to delving into the options contained in System Settings it can be confusing finding specific settings again. Also, if you change a lot of settings in one session and then decide to undo some changes, then working out what settings you are looking for can also be tedious.
Therefore, I would recommend making only a couple of changes at a time. Tweak those settings if appropriate, but don’t try to change too many things at once.