Accessibility May 21, 2021
Apple rolls out new accessibility features for disabled people to mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day
Apple has announced a range of new accessibility features designed for people with disabilities. This includes people with mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive disabilities. These features were announced to mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Apple also announced a new sign language interpreter service called SignTime.
To mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) 2021 Apple has announced plenty of interesting accessibility features for disabled people ties to look forward to. These accessibility features are designed for people with mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive disabilities.
Let’s start with the accessibility feature that’s available now. SignTime, launched on 20 May, is a new service launching first in the United States, United Kingdom, and France. SignTime offers remote interpreter access for American Sign Language, British Sign Language and French Sign Language right in their web browsers.
SignTime will enable customers to communicate with AppleCare. People can also use the services by simply walking into Apple stores to get interpretation without an advance booking.
In a statement, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “We believe everyone should have the tools they need to change the world. Accessibility is a fundamental right, and we’re always pushing the boundaries of innovation so that everyone can learn, create and connect in new ways”.
Upcoming accessibility features on Apple
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. AssistiveTouch offers gesture control support enabling people with limb differences to answer incoming calls more easily, control an onscreen motion pointer, and access Notification Centre and Control Centre on an Apple Watch.AssistiveTouch will allow disabled people using Apple Watch o navigate a cursor on the display through a series of hand gestures, such as a pinch or a clench. The Apple Watch will use built-in motion sensors like the gyroscope and accelerometer, along with the optical heart rate sensor and on-device machine learning, to detect subtle differences in muscle movement and tendon activity.
However, Apple has not provided any details about which Apple Watch models will be compatible with the new features offered under AssistiveTouch.
iPad to get eye tracking support
There are several other accessibility features for disabled people coming up later this year. IPadOS will bring support for third-party eye-tracking devices to allow users to control an iPad using their eyes. Apple says compatible MFi (Made for iPad) devices will track where a person is looking on the screen and move the pointer to follow the person’s gaze. This will work for performing different actions on the iPad, including a tap, without requiring disabled users to touch the screen.
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. 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. – Sarah Herrlinger, Senior Director, Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives, Apple
For blind and low vision users, Apple is updating its preloaded screen reader VoiceOver to give people the ability to explore more details in images like table data, text and other objects. People can add their own descriptions to images with Markup as well. To support people with neurodiverse needs, Apple is introducing new background sounds to help minimise distractions.
For people with hearing disabilities, Apple has announced an update to the MFi hearing devices program by adding support for new bi-directional hearing aids. The microphones in these new hearing aids enable those who are deaf or hard of hearing to have hands-free phone and FaceTime conversations. The next-generation models from MFi partners will be available later this year.
Vidya Menon, a trainer with v-shesh, the impact enterprise working in the space of disability inclusion, welcomes the announcement. “They sound interesting especially sign language interpreters to connect with AppleCare team. I am hopeful it will work in India in future.”
Apple is also bringing support for recognising audiograms. These are charts that show the results of a hearing test to Headphone Accommodations. Disabled users can customise their audio with their latest hearing test results imported from a paper or PDF audiogram. Headphone Accommodations amplify soft sounds and adjust certain frequencies to suit a user’s hearing.
Some other accessibility features that people with disabilities can look forward to from Apple are the ability to use mouth sounds like clicks or pops instead of physical buttons, customisation of display and text size settings in individual apps, and new Memoji options with cochlear implants, oxygen tubes, and soft helmets.
That’s a slew of accessibility features to mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day! With this, Apple has once again taking the lead in making its products accessible to disabled people.
Watch in Sign Language
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