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Apple today announced the upcoming launch of several new accessibility features that are being added to its various products and services. Apple says that these options are designed for people with mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive disabilities, and showcase Apple's belief that accessibility is a human right.

apple-accessibility-features-2021.jpeg
"At Apple, we've long felt that the world's best technology should respond to everyone's needs, and our teams work relentlessly to build accessibility into everything we make," said Sarah Herrlinger, Apple's senior director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives. "With these new features, we're pushing the boundaries of innovation with next-generation technologies that bring the fun and function of Apple technology to even more people -- and we can't wait to share them with our users."
There are new features for communicating with support staff, operating the iPad, navigating the Apple Watch, and more, with a rundown below.
  • Background Sounds - In support of neurodiversity, Apple is adding a Background Sounds feature that's designed to minimize distractions to help users stay focus, stay calm, or rest. Balanced, bright, or dark noise sounds are available, as well as ocean, rain, or stream sounds. All of the sounds can be set to play in the background to mask unwanted environmental or external noise. Apple says the sounds mix into or duck under other audio and system sounds.
  • AssistiveTouch - For users with limited mobility, AssistiveTouch will allow the Apple Watch to be used without the need to touch the display or the controls. Built-in motion sensors, the optical heart rate sensor, and on-device machine learning will let Apple Watch detect subtle differences in muscle movement and tendon activity that will control a cursor on the screen through hand gestures like a pinch or a clench. AssistiveTouch launches later this year.
  • iPad Eye-Tracking - Later this year, iPadOS will support third-party eye-tracking devices to let people control iPad with their eyes.
  • SignTime - SignTime will allow customers to communicate with AppleCare and retail customer care using American Sign Language in the United States, British Sign Language (BSL) in the UK, or French Sign Language (LSF) in France using a web browser. SignTime launches May 20.
  • New Memoji Customizations - New memojis are coming to better represent users with oxygen tubes, cochlear implants, and a soft helmet for headwear.
  • VoiceOver Improvements - Recent updates to VoiceOver let users explore more details about people, text, table data, and other objects within images. VoiceOver can describe a person's position along with other objects in images, and with Markup, users can add image descriptions to personalize their photos.
  • MFi Hearing Aid Improvements - Apple is introducing new support for bi-directional hearing aids, enabling hands-free phone and FaceTime conversations. Next-generation models from MFi partners are coming later this year.
  • Audiograms for Headphone Accommodations - Headphone Accommodations will gain support for audiograms, so users can customize their audio by importing their latest hearing test results.
  • Sound Actions for Switch Control - This replaces physical buttons and switches with mouth sounds -- such as a click, pop, or "ee" sound -- for users who are non-speaking and have limited mobility.
  • Display and Text Size Settings - Will be customizable on a per app basis for users with colorblindness or other vision challenges to make the screen easier to see.
Apple is announcing these new features in celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which takes place May 20. Apple is also celebrating through new additions to Apple Fitness+, Today at Apple, the App Store, the Apple TV app, and more.

Many of these new features are slated for release later in the year, which suggests that they'll be included in the iOS 15 update that Apple is set to introduce at the Worldwide Developers Conference.

Apple's full announcement has more detail on just what's coming and when, and it's well worth checking out.

Article Link: Apple Announces New Background Sounds, Apple Watch AssistiveTouch, and Eye-Tracking Accessibility Features
 
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iOS Geek

macrumors 6502a
Nov 7, 2017
982
1,953
That’s not the iOS 14 user interface
Good catch. The interface on the left doesn't quite line up with what we currently have. Well...we may have just gotten our first look at iOS 15! (If that really ends up being the case, I can imagine some disappointment from a lot of people in terms of design hopes).

Regardless, these are all really nice additions! I enjoy the ambient sounds that the HomePod has, so I'm definitely interested in the background sounds here!
 

Lounge vibes 05

macrumors 65816
May 30, 2016
1,353
4,653
As a blind Apple user, this is exactly why I would never even consider switching to android.
Besides the fact that I’m deeply locked into the ecosystem, with a huge iTunes/Apple Music library, AirPods, Apple TV, MacBook, iPad, iPhone, HomePods, airtags, Watch, etc, there attention to accessibility is absolutely amazing.
And even though over the years, android has become leaps and bounds better than they used to be, they still suck when compared to Apple.
And don’t even get me started on Windows.
Microsoft built-in accessibility features are pretty garbage, and for an actual decent screen reader, it’s another thousand dollars on top of what you pay for your computer.
Anyway, extremely interested in the background Sounds feature.
The best part of apples accessibility features is that, even if you aren’t the target market for them, you can still get use out of them.
 

iamgalt

macrumors 6502
Jul 25, 2012
264
771
I'm interested to see how well the eye tracking will work on the iPad. I personally don't have a need for it, although I'll try it when it's ready.
 
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Jay-Jacob

macrumors 6502
Sep 10, 2015
315
122
England
Glad to see that Apple is including the sign language interpreters for Apple Care customer service. I certainly hope Apple will expand it to other countries such as Germany (where the telecommunication relay service is a huge joke and terrible).
Yes. That be most useful for me. In past when I try find live chat to Apple and it was struggle find live chat since some topic have live chat and some topic doesn't so I have to try find topic that have live chat and explain I am Deaf and this topic isn't my problem and it something else etc etc. Sometimes if it like iCloud or Apple ID or money related like Apple Pay etc it can't be done over live chat, must be by phone or in person and I can't do in person since Apple store too far from where I live and I can't use phone. I hope this new sign language video call will solve problems above when I need contact support.
 

1258186

Cancelled
Feb 5, 2021
813
1,008
Apple are currently being investigated in the U.K. for discriminating against severely disabled customers trying use the iPhone Upgrade Program.

In the UK, Apple requires customers to physically visit an Apple Store in order to either enroll in the iPhone Upgrade Program, or to renew it.

Apple U.K. have repeatedly refused to let disabled and housebound users access the upgrade plan unless they are physically able to attend the store which most of them are unable to do.

Apple U.K. have refused to accept any alternative arrangements to accommodate the mobility limitations of those people.
 

pianostar9

macrumors regular
What is neurodiversity? Whoever made up that word from marketing should be fired for abusing language, reason, and science at the same time.

Otherwise these features are amazing.

In a nutshell, it refers to differences in the human brain, such as between people on the autism spectrum, and those who aren't. There's a Wikipedia article about it if you want to read more.
 

ConfusedChris

macrumors 6502
Jul 29, 2013
285
197
U.K.
Something they introduced recently (after I requested it 😆 ) is “double-click” the side button to approve a purchase via AssistiveTouch. Once set up this saves reaching or typing in a possibly long password.
 

ConfusedChris

macrumors 6502
Jul 29, 2013
285
197
U.K.
Apple are currently being investigated in the U.K. for discriminating against severely disabled customers trying use the iPhone Upgrade Program.

In the UK, Apple requires customers to physically visit an Apple Store in order to either enroll in the iPhone Upgrade Program, or to renew it.

Apple U.K. have repeatedly refused to let disabled and housebound users access the upgrade plan unless they are physically able to attend the store which most of them are unable to do.

Apple U.K. have refused to accept any alternative arrangements to accommodate the mobility limitations of those people.
Yes! There is no way I can get to an Apple Store.
edit: They quote limitations imposed by Barclays, the loan provider. I am already a Barclays customer so why can’t I be approved remotely?
 
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