Apple has announced a number of new features aimed at helping users with disabilities in conjunction with Global Accessibility Awareness Day this week. The idea here is that by taking advantage of hardware, software and machine learning, Apple’s ecosystem of products such as the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch can assist users in day-to-day life. These features aren’t available just yet, but Apple did say they’ll be rolling them out later this year via software updates.
“Apple embeds accessibility into every aspect of our work, and we are committed to designing the best products and services for everyone.
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,” – Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s senior director of Accessibility Policy and Initiatives
First up, we have Live Captions which will be going to the iPhone, iPad and Mac. Users who are deaf or are hard of hearing will be able to follow along any audio content easier now, be in when they’re on the phone or a video call, in a video conference, scrolling social media, streaming videos or even just when they’re having a conversation with someone next to them. You’ll also be able to adjust the font size to make it easier to read.
If you use Facetime, Live Captions will also attribute auto-transcribed dialogue to its respective call participants to make group video calls easier to participate in. Mac Users who use Live Captions meanwhile will also have the option to type a response and have it be spoken aloud in real time to others. Apple also claims that all Live Captions generated will stay private and secure.
Door Detection is a new feature for users who are blind or are vision impaired. It will help users locate a door when they reach a new destination and inform them of how far they are from the door as well as giving them some idea of what kind of door to expect—maybe it needs you to push to open, or turn a knob for instance. Door Detection will also be able to read any signs and symbols around the door like the room number of the door.
Door Detection will come as part of the Magnifier app on Apple devices. However, you should know that because of how Door Detection uses the LiDAR scanner in combination with the rear camera to work, only devices with a LiDAR scanner onboard will be getting Door Detection. This includes the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, the 2nd and 3rd generation iPad Pro 11-inch, as well as the 4th and 5th generation iPad Pro 12.9-inch.
Apple Watch Mirroring
Users with physical and motor disabilities can now use their Apple Watch via their paired iPhone with Apple Watch Mirroring. This new feature will let you control your Apple Watch using the iPhone’s assistive tools such as Voice Control and Switch Control as well as use inputs including voice commands, sound actions and head tracking. For those who need an Apple Watch to help monitor things like blood oxygen level and heart rate but are unable to make the most of it, this ought to come in very handy.
Apple Watch Quick Actions
Another new feature coming to the Apple Watch later this year is Quick Actions. Apple is simplifying gesture navigation on the Apple Watch with Quick Actions which gives you a simple double-pinch gesture to do things like answer or end a call, dismiss notifications, control your media, or even take a photo. It builds on the current AssistiveTouch accessibility feature which already allows a user to pinch or clench without needing to tap the display.
Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader for the visually impaired is now getting 20 new languages and locales, which includes Bengali, Vietnamese, Catalan and Ukrainian. There’s also a bunch of new voices optimised for assistive features across these new languages. VoiceOver users on Mac devices will also be able to use the new Text Checker tool to quickly pinpoint formatting issues such as multiple spaces or misplaced capital letters.
If you’d like to read more about Apple’s celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day and their upcoming accessibility feature update, you can check out their full statement here.