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Shortcuts

14 Accessibility shortcuts for Global Accessibility Awareness Day

On episode 30 of Smart Tech Today, I spent about 10 minutes describing a series of shortcuts I put together that take advantage of the accessibility actions found in the Shortcuts app ahead of today, May 21, which is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD).

Accessibility features are incredibly important for modern technology to provide, making it possible for everyone to utilize their hardware & software regardless of their personal situation – you either have direct accessibility needs that require specific use of your technology, you’ll one day need them yourself, or you benefit from those features anyway (think Dark mode).

The Shortcuts app has always been an Accessibility priority for Apple, with them declaring as much in their confirmation story when they acquisition of the Workflow app before it became Shortcuts1:

“The Workflow app was selected for an Apple Design Award in 2015 because of its outstanding use of iOS accessibility features, in particular an outstanding implementation for VoiceOver with clearly labeled items, thoughtful hints, and drag/drop announcements, making the app usable and quickly accessible to those who are blind or low-vision.”

In iOS 13, Apple went further and added a set of actions to Shortcuts for controlling Accessibility features, available to use inside the shortcut editor in Apps > Settings.

These actions enable remote control over the state of many useful Accessibility settings, letting you create shortcuts to toggle them that can be run from the Shortcuts app, but also by:
– running from the Shortcuts widget
typing in Spotlight search
asking Siri,
making Home screen icons, or even
tapping your iPhone to an NFC tag.

Here’s the clip where I talk through my shortcuts:

And here is the full set you can add to your collection2:

  • Open Accessibility settings: Opens a deep link directly into the Settings > Accessibility page. Run this shortcut to explore the Accessibility features available on every iPhone and iPad that help you customize your device for your individual needs.

  • Set brightness: Presents a menu with options for how to set the current device’s brightness using a combination of actual brightness levels and the “White Point” accessibility feature that can be used to reduce the intensity of bright colors. Run this shortcut to change how bright your screen appears throughout the day – plus you can mix and match the levels according to your needs.

  • Embiggen: Presents a menu for choosing how things appear on your device – “Easier” changes the Text Size to “extra extra extra large” and turns on Reduce Motion, Reduce Transparency, and Increase Contrast, while “Defaults” lets you quickly change it all back. Run this shortcut if you want to temporarily make your device easier to use or hand off to anyone with Accessibility needs, and then be able to quickly change it back.

  • Dark mode: Presents a menu for changing your screen’s appearance to Light mode or Dark mode. Keep this in your Shortcuts widget if you want to quickly change the appearance (rather than diving into Control Center or Settings to change it).

  • Reduce motion and transparency: Toggles the Reduce Motion and Reduce Transparency features of iOS that can help avoid fatigue in users sensitive to those types of effects. Run this shortcut if you want to temporarily reduce eye strain, or just to explore how Motion and Transparency affect your experience on iPhone and iPad. Run this again to switch them off (or back on later).

  • Toggle voice control: Toggles the Voice Control feature in Accessibility that enables voice input to select and operate system features without direct physical interaction; also uses Face ID to check for attention and avoid listening when you’re not using the device. Run this shortcut to run Voice Control on/off as needed – if you like Siri Shortcuts, you might like controlling your whole device with just your voice!

  • Toggle VoiceOver: Turns the VoiceOver feature of iOS on and off again as needed, enabling the device to speak out elements of the screen that are tapped or selected and allowing blind or low-vision users to understand what’s happening on screen. Run this shortcut to toggle VoiceOver as needed – this is the best way to understand how Accessibility features enable everyone to use technology, regardless of whether you can even see the screen.

  • Start Speak Screen: Activates the “Speak Screen” popover that prompts the device to dictate elements on the screen one-by-one, letting users hear what’s visible without manually tapping through everything. Once you’re done, tap the X on the screen to end it. Run this shortcut when you want your device to read aloud anything on screen, from an article you’re reading to the user interface of an application.

  • Toggle Switch Control: Turns the “Switch Control” feature on/off, which allows for physically-attached switches to be used for navigating the iOS interface without reaching around the screen or using a trackpad. Run this shortcut if you have limited mobility and want to use Switch Control-enabled external gear to take advantage of iPhones and iPads.

  • Toggle Assistive Touch: Turns the AssistiveTouch feature on/off, enabling an on-screen touch target and menu to appear that provides additional access to Accessibility features while using iOS. Run this shortcut to quickly access the AssistiveTouch menu and its additional features, plus quickly turn it off when needed. Can also be used for specific pointer devices that require AssistiveTouch to be activated to map actions to additional buttons.

  • Start Guided Access: Enables the “Guided Access” feature of iOS that prevents closing or navigating from the current app (requires Guided Access first be turned “On” in Accessibility > Guided Access). Run this whenever you need to activate Guided Access – if someone with tremors is using the device, it can help them stay within the app their using and avoid accidentally triggering multitouch gestures that swipe away to another app.

  • Open Magnifier: Opens the “Magnifier” feature of iOS that uses the camera and a simple zoom control that allows users to see things that are far away as if they were up close; plus, it allows for different color filters for anyone who might be colorblind or have other difficulty visually distinguishing things. Run this shortcut whenever you want to read something far away (or even take a quick screenshot of the text), or if you want to filter whatever you’re looking at for visual clarity depending on your needs.

  • Toggle LED flash: Turns the “LED flash” feature of iOS on/off, which blinks the camera flash whenever there’s a new notification or alert. Run this if you need high awareness of incoming notifications on your iPhone and iPad using a visual flash of light instead of features like audible alerts or silent (and subtle) vibrations.

  • Toggle mono audio: Changes iOS’ sound output from stereo to mono, piping exactly the same sound into both ears instead of creating audio separation. Use this shortcut if you have limited hearing in one or both ears and want to hear all parts of a song with stereo separation – or if you can only listen to one headphone cup at a time (DJs?).

You can learn more about Apple’s accessibility efforts on their website, they’re sharing lots about GAAD across their social channels, and there’s also a brand-new Accessibility category in the Shortcuts Gallery:

Apple’s new collection includes an impressive array of shortcuts, from simple toggles like mine to a 90-action “Pain Report” tool for tracking your health over time – I highly suggest you check it out. If you’re on iOS, tap here to open the Shortcuts Gallery.

If you have any suggestions for Accessibility-related shortcuts, please let me know on Twitter.

(Story updated with details about new Accessibility section in Gallery.)


  1. I was part of the Workflow team and left Apple shortly after the acquisition. 
  2. If you’re having trouble adding these shortcuts, be sure to go into the Settings app \> Shortcuts and toggle “Allow Untrusted Shortcuts.” Plus, you need to have run at least one shortcut in the Shortcuts app before this setting becomes available – grab one from the Gallery and try it out if you haven’t run any yet. 
Categories
Links Shortcuts

I’m washing my hands 📲

New shortcut: I’m washing my hands:

Sets a timer for 20 seconds so that you can wash your hands thoroughly without thinking about how long it takes.

Use this to help internalize how long it takes to wash your hands, especially amongst the Coronavirus concerns.

Get the shortcut or view a full screenshot of the shortcut.

Categories
Podcasts Shortcuts Tips & Tricks Video

“Show me this clip” for video podcasts with this Overcast to YouTube shortcut

If you didn’t already know, my podcast Smart Tech Today comes with a video feed now – you can download a full video feed in Podcasts, or subscribe to the YouTube channel to get the episodes every week, or watch live on Twitch every Monday at 4pm PST.

While the show is designed as an audio podcast, our network This Week in Tech produces the video so anyone can watch too – I have lots of fun being on camera with Mikah.

Being a podcast that’s also “video capable,” I’ve always thought it’s a shame that it’s not easier to listen when you want to, or watch when you want to, with a way to switch between both on the fly.

If you’re on Overcast user, you’re in luck – I’ve solved the problem in one direction, taking Overcast’s “Share URL with timestamp” Siri Shortcut and combining it with YouTube’s timestamps feature to let you jump into the video feed at a moment’s notice.1

The result is my shortcut “Show me this clip” that works well on your Home screen, in the Shortcuts widget, or in Siri. When you run the shortcut, the link from the current podcast in Overcast is converted to a link to our latest YouTube video, with a special parameter to open to just the right time (in seconds).

Sometimes it may be a bit off, but it’s pretty cool to move from the podcast to the video quickly with a simple Siri command.

Other video podcasts that upload their files to YouTube should be able to recreate the same shortcut as well by adding in their own channel’s URL.

Unfortunately, for now, this is limited to people who use Overcast as their podcast player – it’s the only podcast app I’ve found that includes a literal timecode in the shared link. Plus, there’s no easy way to go from YouTube back into the podcast – YouTube also doesn’t support sharing links with timestamps at all, much less provide Siri Shortcuts for sharing the current video2.

But if you’re a smart home nerd who uses Overcast, I hope you’ll listen to our show and enjoy using this shortcut.

Get my shortcut “Show me this clip.”


  1. I originally built this for my old podcast, Supercomputer, when we ran an experiment with a video version of the show for a few weeks. 
  2. I wish they did – I would use the heck out of a set from YouTube. 
Categories
Links Shortcuts

How far did I walk today? 📲

Today’s new shortcut is How far did I walk today? is designed for CES attendees but is also good for anyone really:

Looks at the Health app for total steps and distance for today, then formats the information to display in an alert or be spoken back from Siri.

Uses only the Apple Watch as the main source of data so no information is duplicated from the phone.

Built after day 1 of my first CES when I took 26,264 steps for a total of 13.2 miles, almost entirely in/around the convention center areas.

This is also a good demo of how Siri Shortcuts can be very useful just with the Health app – there’s tons of health “samples” to dig through and examine different types to work with.

Get the shortcut or view a full screenshot of the steps.

Categories
Links Shortcuts

Which CES shuttle should I take? 📲

New shortcut “Which CES shuttle should I take?“ for CES attendees:

Pulls from a dictionary of CES hotel names and their associated shuttle #s, lets you choose from the names, then tells you which shuttle to take.

Also opens your final destination in Maps so you can follow along.

If you’re new to CES like I am, this is a helpful guide for getting on the right shuttle to head to the right destination.

The conference is so spread out and constantly checking to see which shuttle is a waste of energy – just ask Siri instead 🙂

Get the shortcut or view a full screenshot of the shortcut.

Categories
Links Shortcuts

Playing a podcast by time of day using “If” conditionals 📲

This afternoon, @kcjokes asked for a shortcut that can play a podcast based on the time of day:

After thinking about it for a minute, I built this for him:

Takes the current time, converts it to 24-hour time, then grabs just the Number value and uses it in an “If” conditional – if before 8pm (or 20), play podcast “A”, otherwise if after 8pm play podcast “B.”

Includes Import Questions for pre-selecting the podcasts.

This is a helpful example of using the “If” action to create conditionals in your shortcuts, letting something different happen each time you run the shortcut depending on how the condition is met. In this, the shortcut uses the current Time values inside “If” conditionals so that something different happens depending whether the shortcut is run before or after a certain time of day.

To be more specific, formatting the Time into a single 24-hour value lets the “If” action’s conditions utilize “less than” or “equal to”-type math to check against the current hour – in iOS 13, the “If” action’s conditions change depending on the type of content used.

Feel free to give it a more creative name 🙂

Get the shortcut or view the full screenshot.

Categories
Links Shortcuts

Log your sun exposure with an Apple Watch automation 🌞⌚️📲

Here’s a Personal Automation for Apple Watch that I’m running automatically at the start of my Walking workouts – Log UV index:

Gets the current weather at the current location and logs the UV index for the hour into the Health app, then displays it or speaks it back when run via Siri.

Includes “Get Device Name” and an “If” action to account for being run on the iPad, which does not have the Health app and would otherwise fail.

Shows a screenshot from the Shortcuts app with “Get Current Weather,” “Get the Device name,” an “If” action set to “If Device Name contains iPad”, then “Show Result,” otherwise “Log Health Sample” and then “Show Alert.”

I built this because I wanted to track the UV levels I am being exposed to on a daily basis, whether it be too much during the summer or not enough during the winter.

I use this inside a Personal Automation for Apple Watch set to the “Walking” workout type – the Run Shortcut action runs the Log UV Index when the trigger is met as my workout begins. That way, any time I go on an outdoor walk and I begin a Workout, this will log the sun exposure I’m getting into the Health app.

Shows a Personal Automation in Shortcuts set to Apple Watch walking workouts and including one action step for Run Shortcut set to “Log UV Index.”

Since having an Apple Watch and seeing the UV index on my watch faces, I have realized just how strong the afternoon sun in California can be in and, conversely, how little I was actually getting outside during the winter. I also included the “X out of 14” bit to help with the context, since I doubt many people know the bounds of UV index scores 🤓

Since I already use the Outdoor Walk feature every day, it’s an easy and automatic way to trigger a shortcut reliably – why not log the UV index every time? Some day in the future I might be able to make an interesting insight from having the data saved.

Plus, I may stack on other shortcuts using the “Run Shortcut” action, treating my daily walks as a human-powered hamster wheel for all my Shortcuts Automation needs.

Get the shortcut or view a full screenshot.

Then, to set up the trigger, do the following 10-step process:

  1. Open the Automations tab.
  2. Create a new automation by tapping the + in the top right.
  3. Select “Personal Automation.”
  4. Choose “Apple Watch Workout” under the Event label.
  5. Choose “Walking” from the Workout Type menu, then tap “Next.”
  6. Add “Run Shortcut” from the actions list.
  7. Tap in the empty “Shortcut” field and then choose Log UV Index.
  8. Tap “Done,” then toggle “Ask Before Running” off.
  9. Confirm the “Don’t Ask” option so it will run without asking each time the workout starts.
  10. Tap “Done” to finish the Automation.

Then, go for a walk, start a Workout, and look for the notification!

Categories
Links Shortcuts

Singalong 📲

New shortcut Singalong for Apple Music users:

Turns on the Apple TV, asks if you want to Hand Off music to the TV from the current device, then opens the Music app and shows the Remote on the current device.

I use this to play my music on the TV so I can take advantage of the Live Lyrics feature.

It asks if I want to hand off rather than doing it every time so I can run this again later to jump back into Music if I’ve walked away from the singing session 🙂

Get the shortcut or view the full screenshot.

Categories
Links Shortcuts

2020 Meme generator 📲

Sometimes you just have to make a meme into a shortcut:

Takes the “2020” meme with a line of text in the middle and uses a find & replace to swap out your own text, then copies it and opens Twitter. Your new input must be less than 30 characters to fit.

This is a silly meme generator and proof of concept for how Siri Shortcuts can be used.

Make your own meme generators using the Ask For Input, Text, and Replace Text actions in Shortcuts!

Note: these are not very friendly to users with screen readers, so deploy with care.

Get the shortcut or view the full screenshot.

Categories
Links Shortcuts

Twitter self-search 📲

Self-search is a handy shortcut I built for Twitter users:

Using a Twitter username inputted on import and a keyword entered when the shortcut is run, this shortcut takes the info, URL-encodes it into a Twitter link, and opens into the app to show the results.

Use this to search your own tweets for something you’ve said in the past instead of scrolling through all the way through your own tweets or entering the fiddly search operators yourself.

Get the shortcut or view the full screenshot of .