Apple Introduces New Accessibility Features and Inclusive Designs for Watch, iPhone and iPad

Apple Introduces New Accessibility Features and Inclusive Designs for Watch, iPhone and iPad
Image: Apple

Apple releases new features across its devices all the time, but its accessibility settings are particularly important. The tech giant has announced a suite of new software to help users with disabilities on their Apple devices in honour of Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

There’s also a range of new inclusive designs coming to Apple Watch in celebration of Pride month.

Here’s everything that’s been announced.

Assistive touch

AssistiveTouch is a new accessibility feature coming to the Apple Watch, aiming to help those with upper limb differences.

AssistiveTouch will essentially allow touchless access to the Apple Watch. The software uses the in-built gyroscope, accelerometer, heart rate sensor and machine learning to detect subtle differences in muscle and tendon movement. Movements like a pinch or clench and a series of hand gestures allow users to navigate their Apple Watch display without touching the controls.

It will assist those with limb differences to answer calls, control the cursor and access things like notifications much easier.

Eye-Tracking support

A new upgrade for iPadOS will allow it to support compatible eye-tracking devices. This will allow users to control their iPad with just the use of their eyes.

Eye movement will be used to control the pointer and extended eye contact can perform actions like clicking.

VoiceOver images

Apple’s VoiceOver feature for blind and low-vision communities is about to get an upgrade with better image descriptions.

Apple has announced new features such as describing a person’s location within an image (to help users relive memories in more detail) and the addition of Markup, which will allow personal image descriptions to be added to photos.

Hearing Aid support

Apple’s MFi hearing device program is getting an update with support for new bi-directional hearing aids. These models allow those who are hard of hearing to have phone and FaceTime calls hands-free.

Apple’s Headphone Accommodations will also soon support audiograms which help users customise their audio based on their latest hearing test. This setting can amplify quieter sounds and adjust frequencies to suit an individual’s hearing.

Background sounds

Apple is introducing some new background sounds, including balanced, bright or dark noises to help mask unwanted environmental and external noises. This can help users to minimise distractions and stay focused and calm.

These sounds can mix into or weave under audio and system sounds.

Sound actions

Sound actions will replace the controls on devices with mouth sounds (such as clicks and pops) for users with limited mobility or who are non-speaking.

Display and text size in apps

Apple’s Display and Text Size settings will be customisable in each individual app for users with colourblindness or vision challenges. These will be available on an app-by-app basis where supported.

New Memoji

apple accessibility memojis
Image: Apple

Apple’s personalised memojis will expand to include users with oxygen tubes, cochlear implants and headwear.

Sign Language recognition

Apple’s new SignTime feature is exclusive to the US, UK and France right now, but will allow users to communicate with Apple Care and Retail customer care representatives via Sign Language.

Sign Time will also allow users visiting Apple Stores to remotely connect with a sign language interpreter without the need to book one ahead of time. Apple’s release said it has plans to expand this to additional countries in the future. (Watch this space!)

Apple Watch Pride Designs

apple watch inclusive pride loop
Image: Apple

Apple has been introducing Pride inspired Watch bands and faces since 2016, and this year is no different.

The Pride Edition Braided Solo Loop weaves rainbow colours with those from various Pride flags to represent a range of diverse experiences. Black Latinx communities are represented by the black and brown colours in the band and the transgender and nonbinary communities are represented by the light blue, white and pink colours.

A Pride Edition Nike Sport Loop is also on offer with six rainbow colours.

The bands are available to order now and will arrive in store starting May 25.

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