Apple recently previewed a range of accessibility features aimed at enhancing the user experience for individuals with cognitive, vision, hearing, and mobility disabilities, as well as those who are nonspeaking or at risk of losing their ability to speak. These groundbreaking updates, developed in collaboration with community groups representing a broad spectrum of users with disabilities, are expected to roll out later this year.
Assistive Access for Cognitive Disabilities
Apple’s new Assistive Access tool is designed to make the iPhone and iPad more accessible for users with cognitive disabilities. By simplifying app interfaces and functions, it reduces cognitive load, making it easier for users to interact with apps such as Phone, FaceTime, Messages, Camera, Photos, and Music. The feature includes a distinct interface with high-contrast buttons and large text labels, as well as tools for trusted supporters to customize the user experience.
Live Speech and Personal Voice for Enhanced Communication
Live Speech enables users to type out what they want to say and have it spoken out loud during phone and FaceTime calls or in-person conversations. This feature is designed to support millions of people globally who are unable to speak or who have lost their speech over time.
For users at risk of losing their ability to speak, such as those with ALS or other progressive conditions, Personal Voice is a secure way to create a synthesized voice that sounds like theirs. By reading along with a randomized set of text prompts to record 15 minutes of audio on an iPhone or iPad, users can create a personal voice that integrates seamlessly with Live Speech.
Detection Mode in Magnifier for Users with Vision Disabilities
Detection Mode in Magnifier uses advanced technology to assist users with vision disabilities by reading aloud the text on physical objects when users point at them. Built into the Magnifier app on iPhone and iPad, Point and Speak works well with VoiceOver and can be used in combination with other Magnifier features like People Detection, Door Detection, and Image Descriptions.
Additional Features for Enhanced Accessibility
Apple is also introducing a range of other features to improve accessibility for users with various disabilities:
- Made for iPhone hearing devices can now be paired directly to Mac and customized for users’ hearing comfort.
- Voice Control offers phonetic suggestions for text editing, helping users choose the right word out of several that sound alike.
- Switch Control users can turn any switch into a virtual game controller to play games on iPhone and iPad.
- Text Size can be easily adjusted across Mac apps like Finder, Messages, Mail, Calendar, and Notes.
- Users sensitive to rapid animations can automatically pause moving images, such as GIFs, in Messages and Safari.
- Siri voices now sound more natural and expressive for VoiceOver users, with customizable speech rates.
Celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day
In celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Apple is introducing new features, curated collections, and activities to highlight its commitment to accessibility. These include the expansion of its SignTime service to more countries, informative sessions at select Apple Store locations, and curated collections of shows, movies, books, and music related to accessibility. Apple’s App Store will also spotlight three disability community leaders who will share their experiences as nonspeaking individuals and the transformative effects of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) apps in their lives.
By incorporating these innovative features, Apple continues to build on its long-standing commitment to making technology accessible to everyone, ensuring that users of all abilities can create, communicate, and do what they love.