Apple has just announced a whole range of updates coming to their range of iPhones, iPads and MacBooks to assist with accessibility. These updates make it easier for users with alternative needs to make use of their devices to enhance their lives.
There are four main updates. The first is Assistive Access. This is a new user interface, which strips back the unnecessary parts, leaving you with something that is much easier to use.
Icons are much larger, with bigger buttons for things like taking photos too. Users can select between a grid-based interface or a list-style one, depending on which is preferable.
This is a brilliant feature for those who have lost the ability to speak. You can type on-the-fly, but there's also the ability to save commonly used phrases for easy access. That should make it even simpler to have conversations which flow naturally.
For those who are at risk of losing their voice, there's Personal Voice. Here, users record a series of prompt text for around 15 minutes. That trains the software, which then uses machine learning to read typed text in the users' own voice.
That allows users to continue to communicate in their own voice, even if they lose the ability to speak. That's massive, allowing users to retain their own vocal identity in conversation, and letting their friends and loved ones continue to hear their voice.
Last, but by no means least, we have Detection Mode in Magnifier. This is designed for users who are blind, or have low vision. Users can point at text in view of the camera, and the app will read the text aloud.
It's designed to assist with buttons on devices. Apple show a user pointing to the different buttons on a microwave, with the app reading out each in turn.
All four are great upgrades. Users can enhance their experience to improve how useful their devices are. It's not just for show, either – these are genuinely useful features that will help users with different abilities to enjoy their devices, and navigate their physical environment.
The features are shown in preview at the moment, but won't be accessible just yet. They're set to roll out later this year.