MASTERCLASSING

Apple previews powerful software updates for people with disabilities

Gabby Fernie

Apple has previewed powerful software features designed for people with mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive disabilities.

Later this year, with software updates across all of Apple’s operating systems, people with limb differences will be able to navigate Apple Watch using AssistiveTouch; iPad will support third-party eye-tracking hardware for easier control; and for blind and low vision communities, Apple’s industry-leading VoiceOver screen reader will get even smarter using on-device intelligence to explore objects within images.

In support of neurodiversity, Apple is also introducing new background sounds to help minimise distractions, and for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, Made for iPhone (MFi) will soon support new bi-directional hearing aids. 

Today, a new service has launched called SignTime, to connect Apple Store and Apple Support customers with on-demand sign language interpreters, right in their web browsers. Customers visiting Apple Store locations can also use SignTime to remotely access a sign language interpreter without booking ahead of time. SignTime will initially launch in the US, UK, and France, with plans to expand to additional countries in the future. 

Additional features coming later this year include customisable display and text size settings in each app for users with colour-blindness or other vision challenges, the option of replacing physical buttons and switches with mouth sounds — such as a click, pop, or “ee” sound - for users who are non-speaking and have limited mobility and new Memoji customisations to better represent users with oxygen tubes, cochlear implants, and a soft helmet for headwear.

“At Apple, we’ve long felt that the world’s best technology should respond to everyone’s needs, and our teams work relentlessly to build accessibility into everything we make,” said Apple’s Senior Director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives, Sarah Herrlinger. “With these new features, we’re pushing the boundaries of innovation with next-generation technologies that bring the fun and function of Apple technology to even more people — and we can’t wait to share them with our users.”

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