OS X 10.10 – Yosemite – was released today. As well as a lovely new design it’s major new drawcard is Continuity, the ability to switch between doing things on iOS devices and OS X devices seamlessly.
Continuity in itself has a bunch of accessibility implications, and there are other specific accessibility advances in Yosemite as well as a bunch of general features which have accessibility implications.
Continuity / Handoff
Continuity is the ability to start a task on one device and easily switch to another device to finish it. The idea is that your iOS devices and OS X devices will work together seamlessly.
Tasks that Apple describes as included in Continuity include:
- Make and receive phone calls on your Mac computer as well as your iPhone
- Send and receive text messages on your Mac computer as well as your iPhone
- Handoff – opening a document on one device and easily pick it up on another device (Handoff currently works with Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, and Contacts. And app developers can easily build Handoff into their apps.)
- Instant Hotspot – your Mac can remotely activate the Personal Hotspot on your iPhone when they are near each other.
- AirDrop – easily share files between devices.
There are some good articles written about this function, including: OS X Yosemite & iOS 8 Continuity Explained: Handoff, Instant Hotspot, SMS & Phone Relay and How to use Handoff with iOS 8 and Yosemite.
New VoiceOver Features
New features in Yosemite for VoiceOver users include:
- Expanded VoiceOver support for iBooks
- Improved reading and navigation in Safari and Mail
- Faster access to the web rotor and Item Chooser in Safari
- Improved Alex voice
- Hebrew voice included for the first time
The ever-useful AppleVis have a great VoiceOver-centric article about this: Features and Bugs of OS X 10.10 Yosemite.
New Switch Control Features
New Switch Control features for Yosemite include:
- New custom panels for Switch Control
- Press-and-hold switch actions
- New mouse cursor features in Switch Control
Switch Control user Christopher Hills is enthusiastic about these new features:
New Dictation Features
New in Dictation for Yosemite we have:
- Over 50 new editing and formatting commands to Dictation
- New Dictation languages – over 40 now supported
- New Automator template for creating voice-activated workflows
This is a big step towards bridging the gap between OS X’s Dictation and Nuance’s Dragon Dictate. It’s not there yet – Dictate still has more features for handsfree users that aren’t available is OS X Dictation, but if I were Nuance I’d be worrying!
New Low-Vision Features
New features that will help users with low vision include:
- Differentiate without using color for colour-blind users
- Support for video descriptions in iTunes, QuickTime, etc.
- Reduce transparency mode
- Increased contrast mode
- iMessage now supports audio messages
- Dark menu bar and dock mode will be helpful for those with photophobia
- Spotlight window is now much larger and centred on the screen
New Cognitive Accessibility Features
Features that may help those with cognitive, memory, and learning impairments include:
- OS X now looks more similar to iOS 8
- Green ‘zoom’ button at the corner of windows now behaves more simply
- Family Sharing now functions on OS X as well as iOS 8, including shared calendar and reminders
- Spotlight is now able to answer many more queries in a more intelligent fashion, bringing it closer to Siri’s iOS functionality
For those who like ebooks, this isn’t specifically accessibility-focussed but I recommend:
Apple has also updated their OS X accessibility page to include Yosemite’s advances, so you can see a good overview there of all the accessibility features old and new.
Have you upgraded to Yosemite yet? Honestly I’m putting it off a few days after the bugs I saw in iOS 8 – it seems a bit safer! But assuming there aren’t any huge problems that show up, I’ll be upgrading within a few days.
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