For Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Apple has announced some clever software features to aid people with mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive disabilities. These allow users to better interact and enjoy their Apple devices but one function in particular has the potential to be incredibly handy.
The AssistiveTouch for Apple Watch is designed to aide users with upper body limb differences and essentially allows the watch to be operated through wrist and muscle movements – so you don’t need to physically touch the screen or buttons with your other hand.
This makes use of the Apple Watch motion sensors (including the gyroscope and accelerometer), the optical heart rate sensor and on-device machine learning. An onscreen motion pointer allows users to navigate the screen, answer the phone or scroll, simply by moving your wrist.
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It also incorporates muscle movement, allowing a clenched fist and a pinch movement to confirm and swap functions, while a shake of the wrist can also be used to active the motion pointer. It’s clever stuff that has a very practical use for those not able to use both hands due to mobility issues, but could also be helpful for someone riding a bike, for instance.
In addition to the AssistiveTouch for Apple Watch, iPad OS gains eye-tracking support, to allow people to control the iPad using their eyes; the screen reader software VoiceOver will provide more details about the content of images; support for bi-directional hearing aids is coming to iPhone; and background sounds can be played to minimize distraction and help users focus, stay calm or rest.