Apple Tuesday announced a list of accessibility features designed to help users with disabilities. The new features, coming to the iPhone, Apple Watch, and Mac later this year, would use hardware, software, and machine learning improvements to help people with low vision or visual impairments or those with physical or motor disabilities. Features include door detection for iPhone and iPad users, Apple Watch Mirroring, and live captioning. Apple has also announced updates to VoiceOver, with 20 additional locales and languages.
One of the most useful accessibility features that Apple has introduced as part of its latest updates is Door Detection which uses LiDAR sensor on the latest iPhone or iPad models to help users locate a door. The feature uses a combination of LiDAR, camera, and on-device machine learning to understand how far users are from the door and describe the door’s characteristics, including whether it’s open or closed, the company said.
When the door is closed, the Door Detection feature can help people open it by pushing, turning a knob, or pulling a handle. It is also claimed to read signs and symbols around the door, such as the room number, and even recognize the presence of an accessible entry symbol.
The door detection feature, which works with the iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPad Pro 11-inch (2020), iPad Pro 11-inch (2021), and the iPad Pro 12.9- inch (2020) and iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2021), will be available via the pre-installed Magnifier app.
Apple’s Magnifier app has a new detection mode to allow access to the door detection feature. It will also have People Detection and Image Descriptions as the two new features that can work alone or simultaneously with Door Detection to help people with visual impairments or low vision.
In addition to the updates within Magnifier, Apple Maps will also get sound and haptic feedback for users who have enabled VoiceOver to help them determine the starting point for walking direction, the company announced.
The new offering will help users control Apple Watch using iPhone’s supporting features, including voice control and switch control. Users can use inputs such as voice commands, sound actions, head tracking, and even external Made for iPhone switches as an alternative to tapping the Apple Watch display. The Apple Watch will also get special support for Apple Watch Mirroring, allowing users to control the smartwatch remotely with their paired iPhone.
All this will help people with physical and motor disabilities.
Apple said Apple Watch Mirroring uses hardware and software integration on the system, including AirPlay improvements, so users can use features such as Blood Oxygen and Heart Rate tracking and Mindfulness app. The mirror function works with the Apple Watch Series 6 and later models.
Apple Watch users will also get double-pinch support. This helps users answer or end a phone call, mute a notification, take a photo, play or pause media in the Now Playing app, and start, pause, or resume a workout — all using the double squeeze gesture. It works with AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch.
For deaf or hard of hearing users, Apple has announced Live Captions for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. It will be available in English in beta later this year for users in the US and Canada on iPhone 11 and later, iPad models with A12 Bionic and later, and Macs with Apple silicone.
Live Captions works with all audio content, including phone and FaceTime calls, video conferencing or social media apps, and streaming media content. The company said even if users are having a conversation with someone next to them.
Users can adjust the font size to make it easier to read. The feature in FaceTime will also automatically assign transcribed dialogues to call participants to make it easier for users with hearing impairments to communicate with each other over video calls.
On Mac, Apple said that Live Captions comes along with the option to type a response and have it spoken out loud in real time to others who are part of the conversation. It also claimed that Live Captions are generated on the device – keeping privacy and user security in mind.
Apple’s native screen reader – VoiceOver – also gets 20 additional locales and languages, including Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Ukrainian and Vietnamese. There will also be dozens of new voices touted to be optimized for support functions in all languages.
The new languages, locales, and voices will also be available for the Speech Select and Speak Screen features. In addition, VoiceOver on Mac works with the new Text Inspector tool to fix formatting issues such as double spaces or misplaced capitalization.
Apple also introduced additional accessibility features this week to celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day. These features include Siri Pause Time which allows users to adjust how long the voice assistant waits before responding to a request, Buddy Control to ask a caregiver or friend to play a game, and a customizable sound recognition that is said to be adapted to recognize sounds. . specific to a person’s environment, such as their home’s unique alarm, doorbell, or appliances.
The preloaded Apple Books app will also include new themes and customization options, such as bold text and adjusting line, character, and word spacing to give users a more accessible reading experience. In addition, the Shortcuts app on Mac and Apple Watch launching this week will help recommend accessibility features based on user preferences using a new Accessibility Assistant shortcut.
Apple Maps is also getting a new National Park Foundation guidebook, Park Access for All, to help users discover accessible features, programs, and services to explore in parks in Gallaudet University’s US Guides. It will also highlight companies and organizations that value, embrace and prioritize the Deaf community and sign languages.
Users also get accessibility-focused apps and developer stories in the App Store, as well as Apple Books’ Transforming Our World collection of stories by and about people with disabilities. Apple Music will also highlight the Saylists playlists, each focusing on a different sound.
Likewise, the Apple TV app will feature the latest hit movies and shows authentically representing people with disabilities.
Users will also have the opportunity to explore guest-curated collections from the accessibility community’s standout actors, including Marlee Matlin (“CODA”), Lauren Ridloff (“Eternals”), Selma Blair (“Introducing, Selma Blair”) and Ali Stroker (“Christmas Ever After”), among others.
The Apple Fitness+ service this week will also feature trainer Bakari Williams, who accentuates American Sign Language (ASL), including Audio Hints, short descriptive verbal cues to assist visually impaired or partially sighted users, and Time to Walk and Time to Run. Episodes will be “Time to Walk or Push” and “Time to Run or Push” for wheelchair users.
ASL will also be a part of every workout and meditation on Apple Fitness+, and all videos will have subtitles in six languages. Trainers will also demonstrate customizations in each activity to help people who need accessibility assistance participate.
SignTime is already available to customers in the US using ASL, the UK using British Sign Language (BSL), and France using French Sign Language (LSF). Apple is also launching SignTime to connect Apple Store and Apple Support customers with on-demand ASL interpreters. In addition, Apple Store locations worldwide have already started offering live sessions throughout the week to help customers discover accessibility features on iPhone, and Apple Support’s social channels show how-to content, the company said.