Ahead of Global Accessibility Awareness Day on 19 May, Apple unveiled a bunch of new features which it says will allow users with disabilities to navigate, connect, and get the most out of products like the iPhone, Apple Watch and iPad in more ways.
People who are blind or have low vision will be able to use their iPhone and iPad to navigate the last few feet to their destination with “Door Detection”. Meanwhile, users with physical and motor disabilities who may rely on assistive features like Voice Control and Switch Control can fully control Apple Watch from their iPhone with “Apple Watch Mirroring”, the company said in a news release. The deaf and hard of hearing community can follow “Live Captions” on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
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The company is also expanding support for its screen reader “VoiceOver” with over 20 new languages and locales, including some from India. These features will be available later this year with software updates across Apple platforms.
The “door detection” is a feature designed for users who are blind or have low vision. With door detection, users can locate a door upon arriving at a new place or location, understand how far they are from it, and describe door attributes, including if it is open or closed, and when it’s closed, whether it can be opened by pushing, turning a knob, or pulling a handle.
This feature can also read signs and symbols around the door, like the room number at an office, or the presence of an accessible entrance symbol, Apple explains in the release. This new feature combines the power of LiDAR, camera, and on-device machine learning, and will be available on iPhone and iPad models with the LiDAR Scanner.
The company sys “Door Detection” will be available in a new “Detection Mode” within Magnifier, Apple’s built-in app for blind and low vision users. People will be able to use Door Detection, along with “People Detection” and “Image Descriptions”, alone or simultaneously in this new mode. Apart from the navigation tools available within Magnifier, Apple Maps will also offer sound and haptics feedback for VoiceOver users to identify the starting point for walking directions.
Users with physical or motor disabilities will be able to make better use of their Apple Watch with the Apple Watch Mirroring feature. This will help users control their Apple Watch remotely from their paired iPhone. With Apple Watch Mirroring, users will be able to control their Watch using iPhone’s assistive features such as Voice Control and Switch Control. They will also be able to use inputs including voice commands, sound actions, head tracking, or external Made for iPhone switches as alternatives to tapping the Watch display.
Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader is adding support for more than 20 additional locales and languages, which comes as good news for users in parts of India too. These new languages include Arabic (World), Basque, Bengali (India), Bhojpuri (India), Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Farsi, French (Belgium), Galician, Kannada, Malay, Mandarin (Liaoning, Shaanxi, Sichuan), Marathi, Shanghainese (China), Spanish (Chile), Slovenian, Tamil, Telugu, Ukrainian, Valencian, and Vietnamese.
Users will also be able to also select from dozens of new voices optimized for assistive features across languages, the company said. These new languages, locales, and voices will also be available for “Speak Selection” and “Speak Screen” accessibility features.
Apple is expected to make more announcements at its upcoming Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC), which is scheduled from 6-10 June.