Apple previewed several new software features for cognitive, vision, hearing, and mobility accessibility, along with new tools for individuals who are nonspeaking or at risk of losing their ability to speak. The new features will use a combination of hardware and software to offer new and innovative ways for users to make Apple products available and more accessible for everyone. The new features will be available later this year, suggesting they could arrive in the upcoming iOS 17 update later this fall.
“Assistive Access uses innovations in design to distill apps and experiences to their essential features in order to lighten cognitive load. The feature reflects feedback from people with cognitive disabilities and their trusted supporters — focusing on the activities they enjoy — and that are foundational to iPhone and iPad: connecting with loved ones, capturing and enjoying photos, and listening to music.”
Assistive Access will include a more customized experience for Phone and FaceTime, which have now been combined into a single Calls application, as well as Messages, Camera, Photos, and Music. The feature offers a more distinct interface with high contrast, buttons, large text labels, and additional tools for trusted supporters to tailor the experience for the user they support.
For instance, those who prefer communicating visually can select an emoji-only keyboard and the option to record a video message. Users and their supporters can choose between a more visual, grid-based layout for their Home Screen and apps, or a row-based layout for users who prefer text.
Live Speech & Personal Voice
Live Speech is available across all Apple devices, including iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Users on these platforms will be able to type what they want to say to have it be spoken out loud during phone and FaceTime calls, as well as in-person conversations. Users can save commonly used phrases to make the experience even faster and more natural, and it’s aimed to help users who are unable to speak, or those who have lost their speech over time.
For users who are at risk of losing their ability to speak, Personal Voice is a new way to create a voice that sounds like them. Users can create Personal Voice along with a randomized set of text prompts to record 15 minutes of audio on iPhone or iPad. This feature will use on-device machine learning to keep the users’ information private and secure, and it’ll integrate with Live Speech to offer a more customized and personal voice when using the feature.
Detection Mode in Magnifier
Point and Speak in Magnifier will make it easier for users with vision disabilities to interact with physical objects that contain text labels, such as microwaves, and other household appliances. The Point and Speak feature will combine input from the Camera app, the LiDAR scanned, and on-device machine learning to announce the text on each button as users move their fingers across the keypad and other products. The feature is built into the Magnified app on iPhone and iPad, and works with VoiceOver.
- Deaf or hard-of-hearing users can pair Made for iPhone hearing devices directly to Mac and customize them for their hearing comfort.3
- Voice Control adds phonetic suggestions for text editing so users who type with their voice can choose the right word out of several that might sound alike, like “do,” “due,” and “dew.”4 Additionally, with Voice Control Guide, users can learn tips and tricks about using voice commands as an alternative to touch and typing across iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
- Users with physical and motor disabilities who use Switch Control can turn any switch into a virtual game controller to play their favorite games on iPhone and iPad.
- For users with low vision, Text Size is now easier to adjust across Mac apps such as Finder, Messages, Mail, Calendar, and Notes.
- Users who are sensitive to rapid animations can automatically pause images with moving elements, such as GIFs, in Messages and Safari.
- For VoiceOver users, Siri voices sound natural and expressive even at high rates of speech feedback; users can also customize the rate at which Siri speaks to them, with options ranging from 0.8x to 2x.
New accessibility features make life easier for millions of people
I love to see new accessibility features added to iOS, and all platforms in general. It makes life easier for everyone, and it makes smartphones, tablets, and computers more accessible than ever. These new features will help millions of people with disabilities. I’m glad to see Apple continuously taking steps to make their devices easier for everyone across the globe.
Apple said the new software features will be available later this year.
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