iOS 8 Accessibility Settings

iOS 8 Accessibility Roundup

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 …

General Articles

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.

What’s New in iOS8 Accessibility for Blind, Low-Vision, and Deaf-Blind Users, from AppleVis.

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.

Accessibility Glitches!?

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 accessibility@apple.com – 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.

Text-to-Speech

The Alex TTS Voice Now Available On Selected Devices, Podcast from AppleVis.

Braille

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.

Zooming

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.

Switch Control

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:

Guided Access

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

Speak Screen in iOS 8, video from Luis Perez.

Start Text-To-Speech Easily with Speak Screen., from bdmtech.

Third-party Keyboards

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.

Hey, Siri

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.

Greyscale Mode

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.

Recommended: iOS 8: A Take Control Crash Course Recommended: iOS 8: A Take Control Crash Course An overview of iOS 8's new capabilities along with directions for putting them to use right away. In addition to system features like Siri, Spotlight, and Notification Center, Josh helps you explore the new Health app, plus what's different in iOS 8's most changed apps: Camera, Phone, Photos, Mail, Messages, and Safari. Additional special topics cover accessibility, privacy, important apps to try, managing data usage, and improving battery life.

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.

– Ricky

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6 thoughts on “iOS 8 Accessibility Roundup”

  1. Great article as usual Ricky!

    So far I’m loving IOS 8 on my iPhone 4S. From an accessibility standpoint it’s a pretty substantial improvement for me. The extra options for Control Center and Notification Center are a big help. 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. And finally the contextual suggestions in the Messages app that appear when receiving a text from somebody have proven useful as well. I typically speak all of my responses except when I’m around other people for the most part. In the case of the latter I will physically type them out. This really helps in situations like that.

    These aren’t the only things I’ve noticed but they’ve probably been the three that I’ve used the most so far. I will say that everything seems a bit cramped now on this tiny iPhone 4S display but that should change when I get an iPhone 6.

  2. A nice round up. Your website is invaluable. I have cerebral palsy and use Apple products as part of my arsenal . The iOS 8 has meant that I can use third party keyboards. I use SwiftKey as my main keyboard. The reason for this is because the prediction line doesn’t scroll down like the Apple one. This means that I don’t accidently collapse the prediction line. One thing that is problematic, is that there is no caps lock, so if you in the middle of the sentences and you need a capital letter, then you will need to go back to the Apple keyboard . Saying that I haven’t checked if you can edit the keyboard, only made sure that the caps lock was on in system preferences and it was. Sorry I forgot to point out that I do everything with my nose.

    • @Lyn: Thanks for writing – I’ve been meaning to post your iPad video as a user story here!

      Are you aware that if you tap on the shift key in iOS it will make the next letter that you tap capital? You don’t have to hold it down like a regular keyboard – it works like StickyKeys by default. If you want more than one letter capital, double-tap on the shift key and that’ll lock it – tap again when you are done to turn it off.

  3. Great roundup. Thanks for linking to some of my videos. One bug that I have found: Alex for Speak Selection is only working with Notes right now. It does not seem to work with text selections in Safari, Mail and other apps. I hope this gets fixed in 8.0.1 as it is a feature that a lot of us in education use with our students for the word highlighting and text to speech feedback.

    • @Luis: Thanks for making such useful videos!! Video making isn’t something I’m doing here yet so I appreciate other people who do.

      Thanks for pointing out about Alex and Notes – I have been so enamoured by the new Speak Screen feature that I’ve switched about 98% to using that. Usually when I want text-to-speech I used to just highlight the whole screen anyway, so this is far more convenient for my use case. I did mean that I hadn’t noticed the issue with speak selection though.

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