Cupertino, CA – Apple is set to release a groundbreaking set of accessibility features in its upcoming iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and macOS 14 operating systems, catering to users with cognitive disabilities, language barriers, and vision impairments. These highly anticipated features were announced by Apple in a recent statement, with their official launch expected in the fall after a presentation at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June.
Among the notable additions is Assistive Access, a mode specifically designed for individuals with cognitive impairments. This feature simplifies the user experience by streamlining applications and functionality to their core characteristics. Users will benefit from personalized experiences, including a unified Call app for both phones and FaceTime and enhancements to Messaging, Camera, Photos, and Music apps. Assistive Access incorporates high-contrast buttons, large text labels, and customizable layouts based on individual preferences.
Another groundbreaking feature is Live Speech, which enables users to type their thoughts and have them voiced during phone calls, FaceTime conversations, and even in-person interactions. Additionally, users can save frequently used phrases for quick inclusion in conversations.
Apple has also addressed the needs of users who may lose their ability to speak due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or other speech-affecting diseases. The Personal Voice feature provides a secure and user-friendly way to create a voice that closely resembles their own. Users can generate a personalized voice by recording 15 minutes of audio while reading a set of text prompts. Machine learning processes occur directly on the device, ensuring privacy and seamlessly integrating with Live Speech, allowing individuals to communicate using their voice.
Apple has introduced a detection mode in the Magnifier app to assist individuals with visual impairments. Through the innovative “Point and Speak” function, users can interact with physical objects containing multiple text labels, such as household appliances, by swiping their fingers on the screen. This feature leverages data from the Camera app, LiDAR scanner, and on-device machine learning to provide text-to-speech feedback, greatly enhancing accessibility.
Alongside these significant updates, Apple has introduced several other accessibility features. Users with hearing impairments can now directly pair Made for iPhone hearing aids with Mac computers, allowing for personalized adjustments and optimal comfort. Voice control now provides phonetic suggestions when editing text, assisting users in selecting the correct word from a list of similar-sounding options. The voice control guide offers valuable tips and tricks on using voice commands as an alternative to touch control and typing on Apple devices.
Switch Control, designed for individuals with physical and motor disabilities, now enables users to transform any switch into a virtual game controller, bringing joy to gaming experiences on iPhones and iPads. For those with low vision, adjusting text size across various Mac applications has become more accessible. At the same time, users sensitive to fast animations can now automatically pause moving images in Messages and Safari. Siri’s speech speed can be customized to suit individual preferences. Shortcuts introduce a new “Remember It” action, aiding users with cognitive impairments in creating visual diaries within the Notes app.
Apple’s commitment to accessibility shines through these groundbreaking features, poised to revolutionize how people with disabilities interact with their devices.