Apple previews extended accessibility features set to roll out later this year
- Wednesday, May 18th, 2022
- Share this article:
Apple has previewed a range of features offering new ways for users with disabilities to navigate, connect, and get the most out of Apple products. 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 is also expanding support for its screen reader app, VoiceOver, with over 20 new languages and locales. These features will be available later this year with software updates across Apple platforms.
Door Detection can help users 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 read signs and symbols around the door, like the room number at an office, or the presence of an accessible entrance symbol. This new feature combines the power of LiDAR, camera, and on-device machine learning, and will be available on iPhone and iPad models with the LiDAR Scanner.
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 customisable 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.
Apple Watch Mirroring
Apple Watch Mirroring helps 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.
A new Quick Actions feature enables Apple Watch users to 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 resume a workout, with a double-pinch gesture can. This builds on the technology used in AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch, which gives users with upper body limb differences the option to control Apple Watch with gestures like a pinch or a clench without having to tap the display.
For the Deaf and hard of hearing community, Apple is introducing Live Captions on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Users can follow along more easily with any audio content, whether they are on a phone or FaceTime call, using a video conferencing or social media app, streaming media content, or having a conversation with someone next to them. Users can also adjust the font size for ease of reading. Live Captions in FaceTime attribute auto-transcribed dialogue to call participants, to make group video calls more convenient for users with hearing disabilities. When Live Captions are used for calls on a Mac, users have the option to type a response and have it spoken aloud in real time to others who are part of the conversation. And because Live Captions are generated on device, user information stays private and secure.
“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.”