Celebrating the Global Accesibility Awareness Day, Apple has previewed software features for cognitive, vision, hearing, and mobility accessibility, along with innovative tools for individuals who are nonspeaking or at risk of losing their ability to speak. These updates draw on advances in hardware and software, include on-device machine learning to ensure user privacy, and expand on Apple’s long-standing commitment to making products for everyone.
“At Apple, we’ve always believed that the best technology is technology built for everyone,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Today, we’re excited to share incredible new features that build on our long history of making technology accessible, so that everyone has the opportunity to create, communicate, and do what they love.”
“Accessibility is part of everything we do at Apple,” said Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s senior director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives. “These groundbreaking features were designed with feedback from members of disability communities every step of the way, to support a diverse set of users and help people connect in new ways.”
Coming later this year, users with cognitive disabilities can use iPhone® and iPad® with greater ease and independence with Assistive Access; nonspeaking individuals can type to speak during calls and conversations with Live Speech; and those at risk of losing their ability to speak can use Personal Voice to create a synthesized voice that sounds like them for connecting with family and friends. For users who are blind or have low vision, Detection Mode in Magnifier offers Point and Speak, which identifies text users point toward and reads it out loud to help them interact with physical objects such as household appliances.
As well as the preview and launch of new features that turn Apple devices in useful tools for disabled persons the company also is launching curated collections and contents.
Live Speech and Personal Voice Advance Speech Accessibility
With Live Speech on iPhone, iPad, and Mac®, users can type what they want to say to have it be spoken out loud during phone and FaceTime calls as well as in-person conversations. Users can also save commonly used phrases to chime in quickly during lively conversation with family, friends, and colleagues. Live Speech has been designed to support millions of people globally who are unable to speak or who have lost their speech over time.
For users at risk of losing their ability to speak, such as those with a recent diagnosis of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or other conditions that can progressively impact speaking ability, Personal Voice is a simple and secure way to create a voice that sounds like them.
Users can create a Personal Voice by reading along with a randomized set of text prompts to record 15 minutes of audio on iPhone or iPad. This speech accessibility feature uses on-device machine learning to keep users’ information private and secure, and integrates seamlessly with Live Speech so users can speak with their Personal Voice when connecting with loved ones.
“At the end of the day, the most important thing is being able to communicate with friends and family,” said Philip Green, board member and ALS advocate at the Team Gleason nonprofit, who has experienced significant changes to his voice since receiving his ALS diagnosis in 2018. “If you can tell them you love them, in a voice that sounds like you, it makes all the difference in the world and being able to create your synthetic voice on your iPhone in just 15 minutes is extraordinary.”
Detection Mode in Magnifier Introduces Point and Speak for Users Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision
Point and Speak in Magnifier makes it easier for users with vision disabilities to interact with physical objects that have several text labels. For example, while using a household appliance, such as a microwave, Point and Speak combines input from the Camera app, the LiDAR Scanner, and on-device machine learning to announce the text on each button as users move their finger across the keypad.2 Point and Speak is built into the Magnifier app on iPhone and iPad, works great with VoiceOver, and can be used with other Magnifier features such as People Detection, Door Detection, and Image Descriptions to help users navigate their physical environment.
Deaf or hard-of-hearing users can pair Made for iPhone hearing devices directly to Mac and customize them for their hearing comfort.3
Voice Control adds phonetic suggestions for text editing so users who type with their voice can choose the right word out of several that might sound alike, like “do,” “due,” and “dew.”
Additionally, with Voice Control Guide, users can learn tips and tricks about using voice commands as an alternative to touch and typing across iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
Users with physical and motor disabilities who use Switch Control can turn any switch into a virtual game controller to play their favorite games on iPhone and iPad.
For users with low vision, Text Size is now easier to adjust across Mac apps such as Finder, Messages, Mail, Calendar, and Notes.
Users who are sensitive to rapid animations can automatically pause images with moving elements, such as GIFs, in Messages and Safari®.
For VoiceOver users, Siri® voices sound natural and expressive even at high rates of speech feedback; users can also customize the rate at which Siri speaks to them, with options ranging from 0.8x to 2x.
SignTime will launch in Germany, Italy, Spain, and South Korea on May 18 to connect Apple Store® and Apple Support customers with on-demand sign language interpreters. The service is already available for customers in the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, Australia, and Japan.
Shortcuts adds Remember This, which helps users with cognitive disabilities create a visual diary in Notes for easy reference and reflection.