News, reviews and insights about digital accessibility

Setting up Apple Watch for Accessibility

Ali ColakDecember 15, 2021 

The process of getting a new piece of technology can be rather daunting as a blind user, as accessibility is not always guaranteed, and even in cases where there are accessibility settings available the blind person can only set them up after receiving help from someone sited. Recently, I had such a seamless experience setting up an Apple Watch with my iPhone, that I could not help writing about it. To give context, this was done using an Apple Watch 7 with the iPhone 11 pro max.

There are two buttons on the Apple Watch:

  • The small oval side button which like the side button on the iPhone is used to turn the device on and off.
  • The digital crown, which has functions similar to that of the home button on previous versions on the iPhone.

Clicking on the side button turned the Apple Watch on quickly, I had to wait only about 10 seconds. In previous iPhone devices, it would have been necessary to receive sited assistance at this stage, but I had read online that apple had streamlined this process, and triple tapping on the digital crown would turn VoiceOver on. Sure enough, after triple tapping the crown, I was able to hear the voice of 'Samantha', the default American English TTS engine. After flicking right and double tapping to select English, I was presented with a screen that asked me to open the Apple Watch app on my iPhone to pair the watch and phone.

There are two ways of pairing the Apple Watch with the iPhone. First is through the camera, and second is manually. The manual method would seem to be the most accessible for a blind person. Upon clicking the manual on both the watch and phone, I am presented with the serial number and a passcode on the watch and the serial number of the detected watch on the iPhone. Clicking on the serial number on the iPhone, İ can input the passcode İ see on the watch and after ‘Pressing Pair’, the devices pair seamlessly.

But I wanted to be able to see whether the process with the camera would work as well. So, backing out of the manually pairing window, I double tap pair with the camera. Without any effort on my part, except holding the watch up to the front camera, the iPhone was able to find the watch. After signing the service agreement with Apple, (tapping the bottom of the screen easily brought me to the agree button) and answering a couple of questions about which of my iPhone apps I wanted on the watch, the process was done.

It may seem strange that this article is lacking in detail, compared to the several other pieces I’ve written for this website. But that is exactly how accessibility should be: smooth, streamlined, without hassle or complications. My own introduction to the world of the apple watch was quite simple, and I’m excited to explore this new avenue of accessibility.

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