All 25 iPhone Action and side button accessibility shortcuts, ranked

All 25 iPhone Action and side button accessibility shortcuts, ranked


All 25 Side Button Features
The side button does much more than you think. Who needs an action button?
Image: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

The iPhone 15 Pro replaces the mute/silent switch with a customizable Action button that can do a number of actions you pick. If you set it to an Accessibility feature, you have 25 different options that you can toggle on or off.

And on any older iPhone, you can simply triple-click the side button to access the same 25 accessibility features. You can’t do things like launch a Shortcut or turn on your iPhone’s flashlight, but a lot of people can benefit from these features.

Here are all 25 of the features you can assign to a button on your iPhone — and what they do.

All 25 accessibility features the iPhone side button and Action button can do

You can watch this all in action in the video:

On an iPhone 15, go to Settings > Action Button and pick Accessibility, then pick one.

You can turn on any or all of the side button shortcuts by going to Settings > Accessibility, scrolling down all the way to the bottom, and tapping Accessibility Shortcut. Tap any of them to turn them on. (A checkmark will appear.)

If you enable more than one of these shortcuts, triple-clicking the iPhone’s side button will bring up a menu where you can pick. You can reorder your choices by holding the grabber to the right and dragging each item up or down. (Also note that on older iPhones, you click the Home Button, not the side button.)

These are listed in descending order of usefulness for someone who doesn’t need any accessibility accommodations, but as with all accessibility features, that’s subjective. One of these farther down might be an absolute essential for you.

Guided Access

Extra Guided Access options
You can lock people out of doing basically anything on your phone.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Guided Access locks down your iPhone to a single app. When you turn it on, you can optionally disable access to the side button, the volume buttons, the keyboard, specific parts of the app or even the entire touchscreen.

If you’re handing your phone to a child to play a game, this keeps them from going wild through pictures, texts, etc. If you’re compelled to hand your phone to a security or police officer to present them with a document (which you should really avoid as much as possible), this can prevent them from looking at anything else. Disabling the side button, in both these cases, keeps them from locking your phone accidentally.

Read about it in more detail here.

For some reason, you can’t enable the Guided Access shortcut from the Accessibility Shortcut menu. Unlike all the other options, you can only turn on Guided Access in Accessibility > Guided Access (toward the bottom).

Background Sounds

While you study, work or sleep, you can play soothing background sounds from your iPhone. You can hear the ocean, rainfall, a running creek and various white noise patterns.

Read my deep dive on Background Sounds here.

Voice Control

Voice Control lets you operate your phone with your voice. With it, you control your iPhone using voice commands like “go home,” “open Safari,” “scroll down,” “tap ‘Edit’” and more. You can turn different commands and vocabulary on or off — or even create your own.

If you want more detailed control over your iPhone screen, you can turn on an overlay that will highlight interactive elements, in Settings > Voice Control > Overlay. Set the overlay to Numbered Grid and you can use commands like “swipe up 20” to turn up the volume in Control Center.

While your phone is waterproof, the touchscreen doesn’t work if your hands are wet — which is why this works great with the triple-click shortcut. You can turn it on and give vocal directions to your phone to change music, scroll down a recipe, reply to a text and more.

Speak Screen

Speak the entire screen
Swipe down with two fingers to read an entire article in Safari, all of the text in a Photo or an entire iMessage conversation.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

This feature is like the reverse: it uses Siri’s voice to read the contents of your iPhone’s screen. If you want to hear your writing read back to you, if you’re cooking in the kitchen and you want to want to hear instructions as your hands are busy, or if the words are just too small to make out — you can activate Speak Screen.

We published a full article on how to make your iPhone read text if you want to know more about this feature.

Apple Watch mirroring

Apple Watch mirroring
Control your Apple Watch from your phone.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Apple Watch mirroring lets you control your Apple Watch from your iPhone. A pop-up window shows the screen and all its buttons. You can tap, swipe, use gestures, press the buttons and spin the crown.

If you destroy your Watch screen, you can use this feature to keep closing your rings as you wait for a repair or replacement. If you want an Apple Watch to track health and fitness, but the screen is too small for you to read or use, Apple Watch mirroring might be the solution. Even on the smallest iPhone, you can control your Apple Watch using a much bigger display.

The connection is somewhat laggy, even when they’re right next to each other, but it’s better than nothing.

Left/Right Balance

If you’re hard of hearing in one ear, you can adjust your headphones to balance out the audio by boosting the volume on the left or right to suit your needs. Go to Accessibility > Audio/Visual and adjust the slider left or right before turning it on.

Assigning it as a side button shortcut, you can toggle it on and off for different headphones or speakers or when you’re sharing headphones with someone else.

Assistive Access

Assistive Access Home Screen and camera
Assistive Access is a pretty fool-proof interface you can switch to.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Assistive Access reduces the iPhone to just a few core features that are simple and easy to use. It limits the cognitive load of the device. It’s like you have the functionality of a cellphone from the mid-2000s, but with the reliability (and internet connection) of a modern smartphone.

You can still set any app or game to be enabled inside Assistive Access if you need a few extra things beyond the core features, like a special health monitoring app.

If you have trouble focusing on studying or work, you can turn on Assistive Access. You won’t have any distracting apps, but you will be able to respond to urgent texts and phone calls if necessary.


Magnifier is a special camera app tailored to work as a magnifying glass. You have a big, obvious control where you can zoom in and out. You can take a picture to get a better look at something without filling up your photo library. You can turn on the flashlight (which you can’t do freely from the camera) and a few color filters.

You can download Apple’s free Magnifier app from the App Store.

Detection Mode

Door Detection and Image Descriptions
Get help looking around with the power of your iPhone camera.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Detection Mode is a powerful feature inside the Magnifier app designed for people with low vision. It does the following:

  • Door detection tells you if your iPhone sees a door and tells you how you can open it.
  • People detection tells you if there’s anyone standing nearby.
  • Image descriptions describe what the camera is pointing at.
  • Text detection scans any text it sees and puts it on screen for you to read or hear.
  • Point and Speak will read aloud whatever your finger is pointing at.


Zoom is like Magnifier, but for your phone screen. To get a closer look, you can have a picture-in-picture zoom or a full-screen zoom. You can change how big or small the zoom window is, how far you want it to zoom, and whether it follows keyboard input. Adjust it with a three-finger gesture.

Live Speech

Live Speech running on iPhone
You never know when you might get sick and lose your voice. Getting familiar with this feature might help you out in a pinch.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Live Speech lets you type on the keyboard to speak. When you’re on a phone call or FaceTime call, a Siri voice will speak for you. In person, it’ll play the sound on your phone speakers.

You can use the built-in Siri voice, or you can make your own by recording your voice (Set that up in Accessibility > Personal Voice).

Reduce White Point

Is the lowest screen brightness still too bright for your eyes? Turn on Reduce White Point to lower it even further.

Dim Flashing Lights

If you have photosensitive epilepsy or bad migraines, this feature will reduce bright blinking and strobing when you’re watching a video or playing a game.

Reduce Motion

The iPhone has a lot of flashy animations — if you’re sensitive to motion sickness, Reduce Motion will help keep them to a minimum. When you swipe up on an app to go to the Home Screen or the multitasking screen, the app doesn’t follow your finger and fly off-screen; it just fades away. When you tap on an app, it doesn’t zoom from the icon; it just fades in.

Color Filters

Color Filters will change the output of the screen to accommodate colorblindness. You can turn on a red/green filter, a green/red filter (I didn’t know there was a difference!), a blue/yellow filter, a grayscale filter or a custom color tint.

Smart Invert

Smart Invert will invert the screen to dark, with some clever exceptions. Apps that already run in Dark Mode won’t be inverted back to white. Images, videos and certain websites will be excluded as well, so they don’t look weird.

Increase Contrast

Increase contrast, before and after.
Increase contrast, before (left) and after (right).
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

This setting brightens and darkens certain user interface elements like toggle switches, buttons and backgrounds for better visibility and contrast. This sounds like a feature you would turn on once and leave on, but for some reason, it’s available as one of the features you toggle on and off by the side button.

Reduce Transparency

Reduce Transparency will make window titles, folders, the keyboard and other elements opaque instead of transparent, so they’re easier to see and read. Combine this feature with Increase Contrast for maximum legibility.

Live Captions

Live Captions work better here, but it's hard to keep up in a conversation between two people.
Live Captions aren’t fast enough to keep up with a podcast.
Photo: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Live Captions will use Apple’s voice-to-text system to provide on-screen captions for any audio that’s playing on your device. You can get subtitles for podcasts, YouTube videos, audiobooks and more.

I wasn’t too impressed with Live Captions when I tried it out last year. This feature is not quite at the stage where you can confidently watch an unsubtitled video on mute when you forget your headphones. It doesn’t keep up with fast-paced dialogue or voiceovers. But the feature is still marked as “beta,” so Apple probably plans to keep improving it.

Read more about Live Captions in our article here.


AssistiveTouch gives you a floating on-screen button to do things like bring up Control Center, Notification Center, Siri and more. If you have trouble performing these gestures, this could come in handy.

Switch Control

Switch Control on iPhone
Tap to select and tap to perform an action.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

If you have motor problems or physical limitations, Switch Control will help you operate your phone without moving your hands too much. A blue outline will move around the screen, highlighting all of the interactive controls and buttons. You tap to select the focus and tap again to confirm an action.

This way, you can operate all the controls on your phone with just one finger tapping in the corner. Alternatively, you can connect a special Bluetooth switch. Or, you can use your camera and operate it by moving your head, blinking your eyes, sticking out your tongue, etc.

There is a whole trove of customizable settings — read about it in this Apple Support article.

Control Nearby Devices

This setting lets you use Switch Control to operate other iPhones, iPads and Macs signed into the same Apple ID. Read more about this feature’s capabilities and limitations in this Apple Support article.

Full Keyboard Access

This feature lets you use a connected keyboard not just for typing, but for controlling everything on screen: selecting apps from the Home Screen, hitting buttons, navigating inside an app. Access our full article on Full Keyboard Access here.


VoiceOver lets you control the screen without seeing it at all. Instead, just tap or move your finger over the screen to hear everything read out to you, and double-tap to select. You can set the speed and pitch of the voice, turn on image descriptions that will intelligently describe the contents of a picture, change how the voice reads numbers and links, etc. — it’s a well-thought-out feature.

Because this changes how basic features like tapping and swiping work, there’s a different set of gestures you need to learn (helpfully explained by Apple Support). You don’t want to jump in the deep end without familiarizing yourself with how VoiceOver works first.

Classic Invert

Classic Invert will flip all the colors on your screen. White becomes black, red becomes green, orange becomes purple, blue becomes yellow. Classic Invert will invert everything, whereas Smart Invert will avoid images and apps that are already dark.


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