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New Apple Updates Designed for People with Disabilities

Published : 2021-05-20
Author : Apple - Contact: apple.com

Synopsis: Apple announces new and upcoming accessibility software and assistive technology updates designed for people with mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive disabilities. Apple previews powerful software updates designed for people with disabilities. New SignTime service launches Thursday, May 20, 2021, to connect Apple Store and Apple Support customers with on-demand sign language interpreters.

Main Digest

Apple have just announced powerful software features designed for people with mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive disabilities. These next-generation technologies showcase Apple's belief that accessibility is a human right and advance the company's long history of delivering industry-leading features that make Apple products customizable for all users.

Apple revolutionized personal technology with the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984. Today, Apple leads the world in innovation with iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. Apple's five software platforms - iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS - provide seamless experiences across all Apple devices and empower people with breakthrough services including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay, and iCloud. Apple's more than 100,000 employees are dedicated to making the best products on earth, and to leaving the world better than we found it.

Later this year, with software updates across all of Apple's operating systems, people with limb differences will be able to navigate Apple Watch using AssistiveTouch; iPad will support third-party eye-tracking hardware for easier control; and for blind and low vision communities, Apple's industry-leading VoiceOver screen reader will get even smarter using on-device intelligence to explore objects within images. In support of neurodiversity, Apple is introducing new background sounds to help minimize distractions, and for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, Made for iPhone (MFi) will soon support new bi-directional hearing aids.

Apple is also launching a new service on Thursday, May 20, called SignTime. This enables customers to communicate with AppleCare and Retail Customer Care by using American Sign Language (ASL) in the US, British Sign Language (BSL) in the UK, or French Sign Language (LSF) in France, right in their web browsers. Customers visiting Apple Store locations can also use SignTime to remotely access a sign language interpreter without booking ahead of time. SignTime will initially launch in the US, UK, and France, with plans to expand to additional countries in the future. For more information, visit apple.com/contact

"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."

New Memoji customizations better represent users with oxygen tubes, cochlear implants, and a soft helmet for headwear. Memoji and Animoji are most often used in Messages as stickers or videos, with FaceTime calls, and in third-party apps and messengers. Image credit: Apple.
New Memoji customizations better represent users with oxygen tubes, cochlear implants, and a soft helmet for headwear. Memoji and Animoji are most often used in Messages as stickers or videos, with FaceTime calls, and in third-party apps and messengers. Image credit: Apple.

AssistiveTouch for Apple Watch

To support users with limited mobility, Apple is introducing a revolutionary new accessibility feature for Apple Watch.

AssistiveTouch for watchOS allows users with upper body limb differences to enjoy the benefits of Apple Watch without ever having to touch the display or controls. Using built-in motion sensors like the gyroscope and accelerometer, along with the optical heart rate sensor and on-device machine learning, Apple Watch can detect subtle differences in muscle movement and tendon activity, which lets users navigate a cursor on the display through a series of hand gestures, like a pinch or a clench. AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch enables customers who have limb differences to more easily answer incoming calls, control an onscreen motion pointer, and access Notification Center, Control Center, and more.

Eye-Tracking Support for iPad

iPadOS will support third-party eye-tracking devices, making it possible for people to control iPad using just their eyes.

Later this year, compatible MFi devices will track where a person is looking onscreen and the pointer will move to follow the person's gaze, while extended eye contact performs an action, like a tap.

Explore Images with VoiceOver

Apple is introducing new features for VoiceOver, an industry‑leading screen reader for blind and low vision communities.

Building on recent updates that brought Image Descriptions to VoiceOver, users can now explore even more details about the people, text, table data, and other objects within images. Users can navigate a photo of a receipt like a table: by row and column, complete with table headers. VoiceOver can also describe a person's position along with other objects within images - so people can relive memories in detail, and with Markup, users can add their own image descriptions to personalize family photos.

Made for iPhone Hearing Aids and Audiogram Support

In a significant update to the MFi hearing devices program, Apple is adding support for new bi-directional hearing aids. The microphones in these new hearing aids enable those who are deaf or hard of hearing to have hands-free phone and FaceTime conversations. The next-generation models from MFi partners will be available later this year.

Apple is also bringing support for recognizing audiograms - charts that show the results of a hearing test - to Headphone Accommodations. Users can quickly customize their audio with their latest hearing test results imported from a paper or PDF audiogram. Headphone Accommodations amplify soft sounds and adjust certain frequencies to suit a user's hearing.

Background Sounds

Everyday sounds can be distracting, discomforting, or overwhelming, and in support of neurodiversity, Apple is introducing new background sounds to help minimize distractions and help users focus, stay calm, or rest.

Balanced, bright, or dark noise, as well as ocean, rain, or stream sounds continuously play in the background to mask unwanted environmental or external noise, and the sounds mix into or duck under other audio and system sounds.

Additional Features Coming Later This Year

Image shows Apple Watch Series6 and iPhone 12 Pro with fitness app displayed on each device. Closed captioning for every workout is one of the ways Apple is making Fitness+ inclusive and welcoming to all users. Image credit: Apple.
Image shows Apple Watch Series6 and iPhone 12 Pro with fitness app displayed on each device. Closed captioning for every workout is one of the ways Apple is making Fitness+ inclusive and welcoming to all users. Image credit: Apple.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day

In celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Apple is also launching new features, sessions, curated collections, and more:

Apple, Apple Watch, AssistiveTouch, iPad, iPhone, AppleCare, watchOS, iPadOS, FaceTime, Memoji, AppleFitness+, Siri Shortcuts, Today at Apple, App Store, Apple TV, Apple Books and the Apple logo are trademarks of Apple. Other company and product names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Source/Reference

New Apple Updates Designed for People with Disabilities | Apple (apple.com). Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.

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Cite Page: Journal: Disabled World. Language: English (U.S.). Author: Apple. Electronic Publication Date: 2021-05-20. Title: New Apple Updates Designed for People with Disabilities, Source: <a href=https://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/apps/apple-accessibility.php>New Apple Updates Designed for People with Disabilities</a>. Retrieved 2021-06-18, from https://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/apps/apple-accessibility.php - Reference: DW#468-13970.