While accessibility did not command any specific demonstration time at the WWDC keynote this year, Apple’s information hints at many new and exciting universal access features that may come to Macs and iOS devices in the near future. These are the features we could find that appeared to have some bearing on accessibility…
OS X 10.10 Yosemite
OS X different visual look including “dark mode” to turn the normally light coloured interface into a darker, less obtrusive shades of grey and black, making it easier on your eyes in dark environments. Changing the contrasts like this can be very helpful to those with low vision and some types of dyslexia (Trusted Reviews: Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite – What’s New).
Mail Markup allowing drawing on attachments could be helpful for those with limited literacy (TGaaP: WWDC 14 Recap: OS X Yosemite Mail Enhancements).
Mail’s electronic signatures, something already available with Preview, is great for those who can’t sign their name (TGaaP: WWDC 14 Recap: OS X Yosemite Mail Enhancements).
QuickType context-sensitive word prediction should improve accessibility for those who find typing hard (Apple: iOS 8 QuickType).
iOS allowing third-party keyboards will also enable keyboards specialised for different accessibility needs, including blind users, AAC users, and those with dexterity issues (Engadget: iOS 8 Keyboards On The Way, and All Together We Can: Systemwide keyboards in iOS 8 could revolutionise AAC).
iOS messages ability to send audio clips by just raising phone great for people with dexterity issues or literacy problems (Apple: iOS 8 Messages).
Better zooming and and greyscale options will help low vision users access iOS 8 efficiently (iDownloadBlog: New in iOS 8 Accessibility: better zoom, Grayscale).
Accessibility settings have been reorganised to be more sensible and easier to find (iDownloadBlog: New in iOS 8 Accessibility: better zoom, Grayscale).
Siri gets real-time transcription which will help those with some neurological problems and also people with hearing impairments to interact with Siri (Engadget: Siri in iOS 8 will let you identify songs and buy from iTunes).
“OK Siri” always-on means people who can’t manage the home button can still trigger and use Siri – I imagine especially quadriplegics and similar will love this (Engadget: Siri in iOS 8 will let you identify songs and buy from iTunes).
HealthKit has huge use for people with chronic illness (MacWorld: Apple Unveils HealthKit to Integrate Health and Fitness Data in iOS 8)
HealthKit In case of emergency on iPhone lock screen widely applicable to many disabled folk (Apple: iOS 8 Health).
Spotlight search now does Siri-type queries too, so people who can’t speak will be able to use many Siri functions (Apple: iOS 8 Spotlight).
Touch ID changes will be great for accessibility for those who find typing on the phone tedious, fatiguing, or painful (The Verge: Apple opens Touch ID to third-party apps with iOS 8).
HomeKit for home automation will be great for ECU users (The Verge: Apple’s HomeKit turns the iPhone into a remote for your smart home)
The high quality ‘Alex’ voice from OS X coming to iOS (iDownloadBlog: 35 new features coming to iOS 8).
Multi-device support for made-for-iPhone hearing aids (Engadget: Here are a few lesser-known new features in iOS 8).
Time limits and countdown timer for guided access (iDownloadBlog: 35 new features coming to iOS 8).
Both OS X 10.10 and iOS 8
Family sharing will be great for those who need purchases overseen/approved by somebody else including people with intellectual impairments, etc. (MacWorld: Getting Familiar With Family Sharing)
Spotlight changes in both OS X and iOS will be very helpful for those with memory impairments using their devices as cognitive prostheses (BGR: Here’s one major new Yosemite and iOS 8 feature that got overlooked).
Continuity will mean huge accessibility gains for those with very complex accessibility needs – they can use high-level Mac OS X accessibility things to accomplish previously “phone only” tasks like phone calls and SMS messages to non-iOS users (Trusted Reviews: Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite – What’s New).
New languages for dictation for both iOS and OS X will assist accessibility for many international users (9to5mac: Here are all 24 new dictation languages arriving in iOS 8 & OS X Yosemite).
Lastly, something called “speak screen” was also referenced on a slide within the WWDC keynote but not explained, it sounds potentially accessibility-ish though!
Apple’s dedication to quality, universal access and a unified customer experience have long set the company apart from its competitors and we look forward to taking a closer look at the accessibility features of Yosemite and iOS 8 throughout the summer and as Apple rolls them out in the coming year.
What are your thoughts? What features of the Mac and/or iOS experience do you think deserve support across both platforms? Comment below and be sure to keep an eye out for articles about Yosemite and iOS 8 on ATMac.
– Alex Jurgensen & Ricky
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