Welcome to the brand new iOS 8, which became generally available just yesterday.
As always, users who are champing at the bit for new features have upgraded right away, and users who are more conservative and risk-averse are waiting for 8.0.1, which is sure to have less bugs. This is always true of any large upgrade of any software, and iOS is no exception. But if you’re eager to try out new features, here’s what you can expect in iOS 8 in terms of accessibility …
Fantastically, there are several people writing knowledgeably about accessibility so I shall just link you to their articles. These are general introductions to the accessibility changes in iOS 8. Most of them focus somewhat on accessibility related to blind and vision impaired users:
Apple Releases iOS 8 with Major Accessibility Improvements, from bdmtech’s Assistive Technology Blog.
iOS 8 Accessibility Overview, by Luis Perez.
Exploring Some Of The New And Changed Accessibility Features In iOS 8, AppleVis Podcast by AnonyMouse.
Looking at Accessibility in iOS 8, from Steve Aquino at MacStories.
AppleVis have also helpfully produced an iOS 8 AppleVis Accessibility FAQ to answer some of those frequently asked questions.
The fearless users and editors over at AppleVis have found a bunch of problems, almost all of which are problems with VoiceOver. They’ve written this up here: The Accessibility Bugs in iOS 8: From Serious To Minor.
It is carefully noted in the article that some of the bugs listed were only encountered by some of the AppleVis testers, and amongst the hundred-plus comments under those article some of the commenters report that they’ve had zero problems with VoiceOver. But if you are a VoiceOver user this is certainly something to be aware of before upgrading.
I also had reports of bugs from some people using Switch Control:
If you’ve found an accessibility bug, please email details to firstname.lastname@example.org – even if you know others have already reported it, it’s worth doing because the numbers of emails tell them how many people are affected by a bug and may affect how fast it’s fixed.
The Alex TTS Voice Now Available On Selected Devices, Podcast from AppleVis.
Alex and Braille Screen Input in iOS 8, video from Luis Perez.
Built-in Braille Keyboard for Six-Dot Input, from bdmtech.
Braille Moves Forward in iOS 8, from the National Federation of the Blind.
New In iOS 8: Braille Screen Input, AppleVis podcast by Alex Hall.
What’s New And Changed In iOS 8 For Users Of Braille Displays, AppleVis podcast by Scott Davert.
What’s new to zoom in iOS 8?, from IPAT ND Assistive Technology Blog.
Vastly Improved Zoom, from bdmtech.
Zoom in iOS 8, video by Luis Perez.
Christopher Hills has put together another of his spectacular videos about the improvements to Switch Control in iOS 8, and their implications for him and other switch users:
New Features In Guided Access in iOS 8, video from Luis Perez.
Improved Guided Access with Timers and Touch ID Integration, from bdmtech.
Maps – Spoken Announcements
Initial Impressions of Spoken Announcements in iOS 8 Maps, from AppleVis.
Speak Screen in iOS 8, video from Luis Perez.
Start Text-To-Speech Easily with Speak Screen., from bdmtech.
Third-party keyboards are not specifically noted as an accessibility feature but they are definitely an accessibility boon for many users. Personally I find that swipe-style keyboards such as SwiftKey and Swype are significantly less fatiguing to use than regular tap-style keyboards so I can type longer and with less pain.
How to Install and Activate Third-Party Keyboards in iOS 8, from The Mac Observer.
How to start enjoying third-party keyboards in iOS 8, Video from Cult of Mac.
iMore has also helpfully listed All the iOS 8 custom keyboards you need to know about which actually lists all the custom keyboards that exist, at least so far.
How to enable and use ‘Hey Siri’ handsfree mode in iOS 8, AppleInsider.
New in iOS 8: Hands-Free Siri and Improved Dictation, from bdmtech.
Paul Nasch describes in the comments below why this is fantastic for him as a quadriplegic iPhone user:
The “Hey Siri” functionality is really handy as well because my iPhone is plugged in to my wheelchair battery all the time anyways. So no matter what I don’t have to reach for my phone on my arm rest to activate Siri. It’s also quite comforting to know I now have something like this if I ever fall over in my wheelchair and can’t reach my phone.
I’ve also figured out another way I can use this – to avoid having to press the physical home button to turn on my phone. I can do it but I try to minimize the number of times I do it because it eventually messes up the end of my stylus. However with “Hey Siri” the phone turns on which means I now have access to the Assistive Touch floating icon. Or I can just say “Hey Siri” then “Open and just like that I not only have access to the Assistive Touch floating icon but I’m also already in the app I want to interact with. Very handy and now I no longer have to touch the physical home button if I choose.
New in iOS 8: Greyscale Mode, from bdmtech.
Learning iOS 8
I also recommend, for those who like to have a book to help them learn things, the iOS 8 Crash Course from Take Control Books. It’s a general ebook – not specifically related to accessibility features – but Take Control stuff is always good value.
One thing I really love about major updates from Apple is that they usually improve accessibility in a number of areas – it’s rarely just about accessibility improvements that are only for one group of users, almost everybody benefits from improvements in whatever area is important for them. Thank you, Apple!
Have you seen any other commentary about iOS 8 and accessibility? Leave me a comment or tweet @atmacjournal.
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