Since 2014’s release of iOS 8, the main focus has been on the features of the operating system. Things like continuity, extensions, and the iCloud drive have created a lot of buzz. This was a very expected result considering that iOS is the operating system on Apple’s most important and profitable products, so it’s natural for the limelight to be shine on the new features that are available to the mass market. Equally as important, but less likely to be reported about are the accessibility features that Apple includes in iOS. The features are just as important and innovative as the heavy hitters of the operating system. With several accessibility technologies available through iOS, users with disabilities can find that their usage of iPhones and iPads can be drastically different because of these few main points
Apple used Siri to introduce the speaking-command features of iOS, but there are some people that believe that she sounds too robotic and most often, doesn’t really provide the information you actually need. With that in mind, Apple has introduced Alex, a natural-speaking voice on the Mac, to iOS. Alex works with all of the iOS’s spoken audio technologies, including VoiceOver, Speak Selection, and another new Accessibility feature to iOS 8, Speak Screen, Speak Selection, and another new accessibility feature coming to iOS 8, Speak Screen. Basically, Alex is a replacement for the robotic-sounding voice that controls VoiceOver, et al, in iOS today.
Using another new technology, Speak Screen, a simple gesture will prompt the aforementioned Alex to read anything on screen, including queries asked of Sir. This feature is a godsend to visually impaired users who may have issues reading what is on their iPhone and/or iPad. It is worth noting that Speak Screen is fundamentally different from Speak Selection, which only reads aloud a selected text. In contrast, Speak Screen will read aloud everything on the screen from buttons to labels.
iOS 8 adds support for a 6-dot Braille input system-wide. This feature involves a dedicated Braille keyboard that will translate 6-dot chords into text.
Apple, in iOS 8, has improved its Made for iPhone Hearing Aids software so that now users who use hearing aids and have multiple devices can easily switch between them. Moreover, if a hearing aid is paired with more than one device, users will now be able to pick which device they would like to use.
Apple is a company with a steadfast commitment to improving Accessibility year after year. Without any tinge of hyperbole, we should be marveled by how the company addresses Accessibility and how it reflects in their ethos of designing products for everyone, regardless of cognitive or physical impairment. These are signs of true innovation; although they will mostly all go unheralded. It is the thought of many that Apple is leading the industry in this regard, and with each release of an operating system, they take another major leap forward in extending their lead.