Accessibility to computing devices is often equated with physical or visual impairment. But inroads are now being made to ensure that technologies are available to a significantly wider range of users with assistive needs. And Apple is, and has always been, the main thing on such efforts.

Some conditions – for example hearing or motor functions – are relatively well understood. The main focus want to know ,, vestibular disorders, is not. But if you are influenced by this particular condition, activating a single setting in your Mac, iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch can make a big difference.

How vestibular conditions can impact you

Before we get towards the technology, you need to understand what a vestibular condition is, and how it can manifest. Generally speaking, disorders like this involve the vision and vestibular systems being in conflict. How well you see system might think you are in motion, due to sensory input, despite you being static. Your vestibular system, which is in your inner ears, helps keep the body balanced, but when your eyes tell you things that your ears can’t sense, things got from whack.

For some people, this leads to a few moments of exciting dizziness, as your body “feels” the movement, for example if you watch a big-screen first-person film of the roller-coaster. Individuals with a vestibular disorder are less fortunate. A visible trigger may cause minutes, hours, or perhaps days of feelings similar to motion sickness, including intense nausea, dizziness, and vertigo.

Apple devices and motion sickness

In the field of technology, these concerns were once mostly limited to high-octane video games, or video that used your entire visual view. All of this changed as digital interfaces more fully embraced animation. Around the Mac, OS X Lion introduced slide animations between full-screen apps; zooming and morphing became prevalent elsewhere, notably in Exposé and Launchpad, or when switching between Spaces.

Arguably, though, it was with iOS 7 that vestibular accessibility problems came to the fore. Apple's radical design overhaul abandoned real-world textures while enthusiastically adopting aggressive animations. Opening a folder zoomed icons towards the face at bewildering speed; app switching involved fast zooms and slides; elsewhere, there is subtler movement, for example parallax in Weather as well as on the Home screen, and morphing in Messages.

Negative reactions to Mac OS X's animations were rare – although this writer had problems – but the impact of iOS 7 was far more widespread. People began to become ill, and organizations dealing with vestibular disorders started recommending people not update their devices until Apple came up with an answer.

Reduce Motion on iOS, macOS, and watchOS

There are general methods to cope with motion issues on Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Use devices more infrequently, rest, and reduce the area in your visual view that the device takes up and also the quantity of intense focus it demands. But Apple's Reduce Motion feature, when activated, potentially enables people with vestibular disorders to carry on using devices as normal.

It isn't a catch-all. Some animation triggers remain in a system level, even with Reduce Motion on. Some third party apps will have custom windows and interfaces that disregard the system setting. You will also need to remain vigilant for seemingly “safe” apps that nonetheless contain triggers – for instance, a static puzzle game with an iPhone that, between levels, quickly slides up a full-screen scoreboard.

Use Reduce Motion on macOS

On the Mac, the Reduce Motion setting is found in System Preferences > Accessibility > Display. Activating it transforms a number of aggressive animations into simple crossfades: the morphing/zooming to/from full-screen mode; the slide when switching spaces; zooming into/out of Exposé and Launchpad.

There are still animations to become cautious about, such as expanding panels, and also the slide when switching pages in Launchpad. Nonetheless, Reduce Motion makes a major difference .

Note: also consider activating Reduce Transparency, to prevent motion triggers that could range from likes of autoplaying video or other animations playing beneath a semi-transparent interface pane.

Use Reduce Motion on iOS and watchOS

On iOS, turn on Reduce Motion in Settings > Accessibility > Motion. You can opt to reverse on auto-play effects in Messages when they don't affect you.

Like around the Mac, Reduce Motion replaces aggressive system animations with crossfades: folder zooms; the app switcher; going back to your main Desltop. Some animations will remain, however they won’t be as aggressive as with the setting off.

On watchOS, Reduce Motion is found in the Watch app in Settings > Accessibility. It is the same deal again: you get crossfades rather than zooming as you switch apps. Note that the subtle zooming effect as you switch faces isn't removed when utilizing Reduce Motion.

The future for you, vestibular disorders, and tech

It's difficult to pin down the number of people who are afflicted by vestibular disorders. When I interviewed Cynthia Ryan, executive director of the Vestibular Disorders Association, a few years ago, she said 69 million adults aged 40 or over in the USA alone were affected to some degree. That at the minimum amounts to countless macOS, iOS, and watchOS users.

However, you might suffer yourself and not even realize. Symptoms can initially present like a type of underlying unease, just like a slight nausea that simply won't shift. Others discover the impact a lot more like a jolt – and when the condition arrives, it can hang in there permanently.

Fortunately, Reduce Motion now exists, and is constantly on the evolve. But when you discover areas within any of Apple's os's that you simply think take some work regarding vestibular accessibility, contact [email protected], and inform Apple about the triggers, effects, and possible solutions.