Apple announced a variety of upcoming features designed for people with mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive disabilities. These features focus on accessibility, which includes AssistiveTouch, eye-tracking, VoiceOver screen reader, and more.
Apple launched a new service on May 20, called SignTime. This feature enables users to communicate with AppleCare and Retail Customer Care by using American Sign Language (ASL) in the United States, British Sign Language (BSL) in the United Kingdom, or French Sign Language (LSF) in France.
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 Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s senior director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives. “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.
Here is the list of upcoming features:
AssistiveTouch for Apple Watch: AssistiveTouch will allow users to use the Apple Watch without the need to touch the display. With the built-in motion sensors and on-device machine learning, the watch will detect subtle differences in muscle movement and tendon activity that will allow users to control the screen through hand gestures.
Eye-Tracking Support for iPad: iPadOS will support third-party eye-tracking devices to let people control iPad with their eyes. Compatible devices will track user’s eye movement and the pointer will move as they move their eyes.
Explore Images with VoiceOver: The new update for VoiceOver lets users explore more details about people, text, table data, and other objects within images. Describing a person’s position along with other objects within images, for instance. Users can navigate a photo of a receipt like a table (by row and column) and can add image descriptions with Markup to personalize their photos.
Made for iPhone Hearing Aids and Audiogram Support: Apple is adding support for bi-directional hearing aids. This feature enables hands-free phone and FaceTime conversations for people who are hearing-impaired.
The company is also bringing support for audiograms. This allows users to customize their audio by importing their latest hearing test results from a paper or PDF audiogram.
Background Sounds: Apple will introduce a background sounds feature designed to minimize distractions and help users stay focused, stay calm, or rest. Balanced, bright, or dark noise, as well as ocean, rain, or steam sounds are the available sound options. All of the sounds can be set to play in the background to mask unwanted environmental or external noise.
Apple says the additional features coming later this year include:
- Sound Actions for Switch Control replaces 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.
- Display and Text Size settings can be customized in each app for users with colorblindness or other vision challenges to make the screen easier to see. Users will be able to customize these settings on an app-by-app basis for all supported apps.
- New Memoji customizations better represent users with oxygen tubes, cochlear implants, and a soft helmet for headwear.
Apple also introduced new additions coming to Apple Fitness Plus, Today at Apple, the Apple Books, the Apple Maps, the Apple TV app, and more. Many of these features will be arriving later this year, which means they will most probably ship with iOS 15.