Apple Announces New Accessibility Features for Differently-Abled Users

  • Apple has rolled out a bunch of new features that will streamline the iPhone and iPad experience for people with disabilities.
  • Examples include Eye Tracking for people who can’t move their hands and Music Haptics for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • All the other iOS 18 features will be announced at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on June 10.

Apple Announces New Accessibility Features for Differently-Abled Users

After launching the new iPad Pro and iPad Air lineups, as well as a couple of updated accessories, Apple has now announced a bunch of new features for iPhones and iPads that are expected to roll out later this year. The goal with these new additions is to make its devices accessible to a wider range of users.

It’s worth noting, though, that this isn’t the first time Apple has added accessibility features. In fact, it adds something new for its differently-abled users every year on Global Accessibility Awareness Day. This year is no different.

Speaking about the same, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Apple has always believed in the power of innovation in changing lives.

“That’s why for nearly 40 years, Apple has championed inclusive design by embedding accessibility at the core of our hardware and software.” – Tim Cook

Let’s now take a look at the latest Apple updates one by one.

Vehicle Motion Cues

This feature is perfect for those who experience motion sickness when looking at their phones in a moving car. Once this feature is tuned in, a bunch of moving dots will pop up on your screen that will swerve with the motion of the car.

According to Apple, this will help minimize the sensory conflict and help people use their phones without feeling nauseous.

Apple Vehicle Motion Cues

Research shows that sensory conflict happens when there’s a difference between what your eyes see and how your body feels. The above-mentioned moving dots are expected to fix that. Also, you needn’t worry about the user experience because the dots won’t hide the content you’re viewing on your phone.

This feature is expected to roll out as a part of iOS 18, alongside the launch of the much-awaited iPhone 16. As usual, this is going to be an optional feature, meaning you can turn it on or off in the control center.

Eye Tracking

As the name suggests, this feature will help you navigate your device with just your eyes. Paired with Dwell Control, you’ll also be able to access additional features such as physical buttons and swipes.

Eye tracking will be available on both iPad and iPhone and will greatly help people with disabilities operate their devices without external help.

The feature uses AI, machine learning, and the front camera of the device. The best part (privacy fanatics listen up!) is that all the data that is used to help you remain confined to your device and isn’t shared with Apple.

Music Haptics

Music Haptics is an accessibility feature that will make it easier for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to enjoy music. It adds layers to the song in the form of taps, textures, and refined vibrations.

Apple is already working with a million songs in its catalog to ensure this feature can be used by people from around the world. Plus, Music Haptics will also be available as an API so that developers can make even more music available in their apps.

Vocal Shortcuts & Listen for Atypical Speech

These two features are for people with speech issues. With Vocal Shortcuts, you can use custom sounds or utterances to command Siri to do a task.

Apple iOS Vocal Shortcuts

With Listen for Atypical Speech, you can acquaint Siri with a wide range of speech. For instance, those with conditions like Cerebral Palsy or who recently had a stroke do not always speak clearly. However, with this feature turned on, Siri will be able to understand them.

CarPlay Gets Voice Control

CarPlay is a smart and easy way to use your iPhone while driving, and it’s now getting a couple of useful accessibility features.

Apple CarPlay updates

This will include:

  • Voice Control to navigate the apps through the car’s infotainment screen.
  • Color Filter paired with Bold Text and Large Text to make the visuals easy to understand while driving.
  • Sound Recognition, a feature that will send alerts as it recognizes car horns and sirens. This is a lovely feature for people who are hard of hearing.

Accessibility Features on visionOS

Accessibility features are also being added to visionOS, Apple’s mixed reality operating system for the Apple Vision Pro.

visionOS which will now have system-wide Live Captions for every user. This will be beneficial to people who are hard of hearing. For the same user group, visionOS will also be supporting Made for iPhone hearing devices and cochlear hearing processors.

Apple visionOS accessibility updates

For users who are visually challenged, features like Smart Invert, Dim Flashing and Reduce Transparency will come in handy.

Other Apple Updates

In addition to the above-mentioned additions, Apple has announced a handful of other updates as well. Here they are:

  • Hover Typing will show the text in a larger font while typing—ideal for users with poor vision.
  • Voice Control will now offer support for difficult words and custom vocabulary.
  • Non-speaking users will benefit from the Live Speech feature, which will include categories and simultaneous compatibility with Live Captions.
  • With Switch Control, you can make your iPad’s or iPhone’s camera recognize finger taps as switches.
  • Users with physical disabilities will benefit from Virtual Trackpad for AssistiveTouch, which basically takes a small part of your screen and doubles it up as a trackpad.
  • Personal Voice lets you create a voice that sounds like your own to use on FaceTime, phone calls, and other apps. It’s ideal for people who are about to lose their voice.
  • The VoiceOver feature will now include new voices, better volume adjustment, a flexible Voice Rotor, and the ability to customize VoiceOver keyboard shortcuts on Mac. This is ideal for people who are visually challenged.

To conclude, all of this is just a glimpse of what Apple is working on. On June 10, at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), the company is expected to announce more iOS 18 features. Just like Google (check out my in-depth Google I/O conference coverage to know all about its latest AI announcements), Apple’s keynote is also expected to be dominated by AI updates.

Read more: Apple reveals Q1 2024 revenue details & announces a $110 billion stock buyback

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