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Apple unveiled new accessibility features for people with disabilities

6 mins read
Apple unveiled new accessibility features for people with disabilities
Source: Apple Inc.

Apple today unveiled the new accessibility features for users with disabilities which will be coming later this year. The new accessibility features include, navigate, connect and other useful accessibility features for them.

According to Apple, “Using advancements across hardware, software, and machine learning, people who are blind or low vision can use their iPhone and iPad to navigate the last few feet to their destination with Door Detection; users with physical and motor disabilities who may rely on assistive features like Voice Control and Switch Control can fully control Apple Watch from their iPhone with Apple Watch Mirroring; and the Deaf and hard of hearing community can follow Live Captions on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.”

“Apple also stated that to expand support for its industry-leading screen reader VoiceOver with over 20 new languages and locales. These features will be available later this year with software updates across Apple platforms.”

“Apple embeds accessibility into every aspect of our work, and we are committed to designing the best products and services for everyone,” said Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s senior director of Accessibility Policy and Initiatives. “We’re excited to introduce these new features, which combine innovation and creativity from teams across Apple to give users more options to use our products in ways that best suit their needs and lives.”

Door Detection for Users Who Are Blind or Low Vision

The Door Detection help users who are blind or have low vision to locate a door upon arriving at a new destination, understand how far they are from it, and describe door attributes — including if it is open or closed, and when it’s closed, whether it can be opened by pushing, turning a knob, or pulling a handle.

Door Detection can also scan signs and symbols near the door, such as an office’s room number or the existence of an accessible entrance mark. This new capability will be accessible on iPhone and iPad models with the LiDAR Scanner and will combine the capabilities of LiDAR, camera, and on-device machine learning.

The Door Detection will be available in a new Detection Mode within Magnifier, Apple’s built-in app supporting blind and low vision users. Door Detection, along with People Detection and Image Descriptions, can each be used alone or simultaneously in Detection Mode, offering users with vision disabilities a go-to place with customizable tools to help navigate and access rich descriptions of their surroundings.

In addition to navigation tools within Magnifier, Apple Maps will offer sound and haptics feedback for VoiceOver users to identify the starting point for walking directions.

Advancing Physical and Motor Accessibility for Apple Watch

The people with physical and motor disabilities with Apple Watch Mirroring, help users control Apple Watch remotely from their paired iPhone. With Apple Watch Mirroring, users can control Apple Watch using iPhone’s assistive features like Voice Control and Switch Control, and use inputs including voice commands, sound actions, head tracking, or external Made for iPhone switches as alternatives to tapping the Apple Watch display.

Apple Watch Mirroring combines hardware and software, including AirPlay advances, to ensure that users who rely on these mobility features can benefit from Apple Watch apps like Blood Oxygen, Heart Rate, Mindfulness, and others.

Apple unveiled new accessibility features for people with disabilities
With Apple Watch Mirroring, users can control Apple Watch from their paired iPhone, with the option to use iPhone’s assistive features like Voice Control and Switch Control as alternatives to tapping the display. (Source: Apple Inc.)

Besides that, users can manage Apple Watch with simple hand gestures. A double-pinch gesture on Apple Watch can now answer or end a phone call, dismiss a notification, take a photo, play or pause media in the Now Playing app, and start, pause, or continue a workout, among other things.

This expands on the Apple Watch’s unique AssistiveTouch technology, which allows users with upper-body limb differences to control the Apple Watch with gestures like pinch or clench instead of tapping.

Apple unveiled new accessibility features for people with disabilities
Quick Actions on Apple Watch help users perform a time-sensitive action — like answering a phone call — with a double-pinch gesture. (Source: Apple Inc.)

Live Captions Come to iPhone, iPad, and Mac for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Users

Apple is releasing Live Captions for iPhone, iPad, and Mac for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities. Users can follow along with any audio content more easily, whether they’re on a phone or FaceTime call, using a video conferencing or social media app, streaming media content, or chatting with someone nearby. Users can also change the text size to make it easier to read.

FaceTime’s Live Captions give auto-transcribed language to call participants, making group video calls even more accessible to those with hearing disabilities. When using Live Captions for calls on a Mac, users can type a response and have it read aloud in real-time to other participants in the conversation.

VoiceOver Adds New Languages and More

VoiceOver, Apple’s industry-leading screen reader for blind and low-vision users, now supports over 20 new localities and languages, including Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese. Users can also choose from dozens of new voices across languages that are designed for assistive features.

Speak Selection and Speak Screen accessibility features will also support these new languages, locales, and voices. VoiceOver users on Mac may also use the new Text Checker tool to find common formatting mistakes like duplicate spaces or misplaced capital letters, making proofreading documents or emails much easier.

Additional Features

  • With Buddy Controller, users can ask a care provider or friend to help them play a game; Buddy Controller combines any two-game controllers into one, so multiple controllers can drive the input for a single player.
  • With Siri Pause Time, users with speech disabilities can adjust how long Siri waits before responding to a request.
  • Voice Control Spelling Mode gives users the option to dictate custom spellings using letter-by-letter input.5
  • Sound Recognition can be customized to recognize sounds that are specific to a person’s environment, like their home’s unique alarm, doorbell, or appliances.
  • The Apple Books app will offer new themes, and introduce customization options such as bolding text and adjusting line, character, and word spacing for an even more accessible reading experience.
Apple unveiled new accessibility features for people with disabilities
With updates to Sound Recognition, iPhone and iPad can be trained to recognize a unique alarm, doorbell, or appliance (Left) / Users can adjust how long Siri waits before responding to a request with Siri Pause Time (Right) (Source: Apple Inc.)
Apple unveiled new accessibility features for people with disabilities
Apple Books introduces new themes and customization options (Source: Apple Inc.)

Additionally,

Celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day

This week, Apple is celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day with special sessions, curated collections, and more:

  • SignTime will launch in Canada on May 19 to connect Apple Store and Apple Support customers with on-demand American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters. SignTime is already available for customers in the US using ASL, the UK using British Sign Language (BSL), and France using French Sign Language (LSF).
  • Apple Store locations around the world are offering live sessions throughout the week to help customers discover accessibility features on iPhone, and Apple Support social channels are showcasing how-to content.
  • The Accessibility Assistant shortcut is coming to the Shortcuts app on Mac and Apple Watch this week to help recommend accessibility features based on user preferences.
  • This week in Apple Fitness+, trainer Bakari Williams uses ASL to highlight the features available to users that are part of an ongoing effort to make fitness more accessible to all, including Audio Hints, which are short descriptive verbal cues to support users who are blind or low vision, and Time to Walk and Time to Run episodes becoming “Time to Walk or Push” and “Time to Run or Push” for wheelchair users. Additionally, Fitness+ trainers incorporate ASL into every workout and meditation, all videos include closed captioning in six languages, and trainers demonstrate modifications in each workout so users at different levels can join in.
Apple unveiled new accessibility features for people with disabilities
Time to Walk or Push and Time to Run or Push are part of an ongoing effort to make fitness more accessible to all (Source: Apple Inc.)
  • Apple Maps features a new guide from the National Park Foundation, Park Access for All, to help users discover accessible features, programs, and services to explore in parks across the US. Guides from Gallaudet University — the world’s premier university for Deaf, hard of hearing, and Deafblind students — feature businesses and organizations that value, embrace, and prioritize the Deaf community and signed languages.
  • Users can explore accessibility-focused apps and powerful stories from app creators in the App Store; check out the Transforming Our World collection in Apple Books, featuring stories by and about people with disabilities; and learn about the creative ways technology is advancing accessibility in Apple Podcasts.
  • Apple Music will highlight the Saylists playlists, a collection of playlists that each focus on a different sound. Choosing one and singing along is a fun and engaging way to practice vocal sounds or speech therapy.
  • The Apple TV app will highlight the latest hit movies and shows featuring authentic representations of people with disabilities. Plus, viewers can explore guest-curated collections from the accessibility community’s standout actors, including Marlee Matlin (“CODA”), Lauren Ridloff (“Eternals”), Selma Blair (“Introducing, Selma Blair”), Ali Stroker (“Christmas Ever After”), and more.
Apple unveiled new accessibility features for people with disabilities
The National Park Foundation’s new Park Access for All guide in Apple Maps helps users discover accessible features, programs, and services in parks across the US (Left) / Available now on Apple Maps, Park Access for All is a new guide from the National Park Foundation that helps users discover accessible features, programs, and services in parks across the US (Middle) / Users can visit the App Store to learn about app creators making an impact, including the teams who are are making it easy for Snap users to learn American Sign Language through augmented reality lenses in the app (Right) (Source: Apple Inc.)
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