One of OS X’s finest features is also one that most people never use—Universal Access. Designed with those with disabilities in mind, Universal Access offers features that can be helpful to anyone. In this video I point out some of its capabilities that can make working with your Mac easier and more enjoyable.

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• Length: 3 minutes, 38 seconds

Show Notes

Very few Mac users understand just how powerful Universal Access is—or what a bargain it is. For the last several iterations of Mac OS X, Apple has included the kind of accessibility features that, on Windows, you had to pay a small fortune for. Universal Access is one of those features that demonstrates just how focused Apple can be on all of its users.

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Show transcript

Today we’re going to explore a System Preference that far too few of us use—Universal Access. People with normal vision and hearing believe this system preference isn’t for them, but there are some useful features hidden within. Let’s take a look.

Launch System Preferences, choose Universal Access and in the Seeing tab take a look at the Zoom area. Switch on zoom by enabling the On option or press Command-Option-8. Do this and you can now zoom in using Command-Option-Equal or Plus and zoom out using Command-Option-Hyphen or Minus at the top of the Mac’s keyboard. This can be helpful when you’re trying to view tiny text in a window or zero in on a small graphic element when you’re editing it.

Even more helpful still is to be able to zoom the screen using your mouse wheel or trackpad along with the Control key. To enable that option, click on the Options button in the Zoom area and at the bottom of the sheet enable the Use Scroll Wheel With Modifier Keys to Zoom Option. Now just hold down Control and either move your fingers up on a track pad or hold down that same Control key and roll a scroll wheel up to zoom in. Move your fingers or the scroll wheel in the opposite direction to zoom out.

Now move to the Hearing tab and enable the Flash the Screen When An Alert Sound Occurs. This is helpful for those times when you’ve muted your Mac’s volume but you still want to know when an alert has gone off. You can test the effect by clicking on the Flash Screen button.

Now let’s jump over to the Mouse & Trackpad tab. If you do presentations on your Mac—particularly if you’re showing something on your Mac as I am now—it can be difficult for the audience to clearly see your cursor. Within this tab you can make that cursor larger.

Just click and drag on the Cursor Size slider to make the cursor larger. Going to the extreme far right is a little much, but take it to the middle and you’ll make it easier for your audience to see without distracting them.

And there you are, a handful of ways that you can use Universal Access to make working with the Mac easier for everyone.

Thanks for watching.

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