Apple previews Assistive Access, Personal Voice, Live Speech and other accessibility improvements in macOS and iOS

May 17, 2023

Apple has previewed accessibility features that it plans to bring to users this year. The features are likely to arrive in macOS 14 and iOS 17.

New Accessibility features in macOS and iOS

Assistive Access

Assistive Access will allow users with Cognitive Disabilities to distill the apps and experiences to ensure they have the essential features. For example, it will combine the Phone and FaceTime experience into a single app, Calls. The accessibility features include high contrast buttons, large text labels, and options to help trusted supporters who assist the person, to customize the experience for the individual. Users will be able to customize their experience for other apps such as Messages, Camera, Photos, and Music.

Shortcuts has a new option called Remember This, which users with cognitive disabilities may find helpful. They can use it to create a visual diary in Notes for reference and reflection.

Apple says that users who want to express their emotions through visual communication can use an emoji-only keyboard in messages, or record a video message. The new experience will also let users choose between a row-based layout focusing on text, or a grid-based layout for the home screen and other apps.

Live Speech

Live Speech is a text to voice feature, it will allow users to say something, and have it spoken aloud during phone and FaceTime calls. Apple says that it also be useful for in-person conversations.

Users will be able to save common phrases for responding quickly, it will be available on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Personal Voice

Apple's Personal Voice feature has been designed to help users who are at risk of losing their ability to speak due to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or other conditions that can affect their speaking ability.

Users can create a Personal Voice that sounds like them by reading aloud some randomized set of text prompts to record 15 minutes of audio on iPhone or iPad. They can then use this feature, which integrates with Live Speech, to converse with their loved ones. The Cupertino company says that this is a privacy-friendly feature, which uses on-device machine learning to keep users’ information private and secure.

Point and Speak in Magnifier

The Magnifier app in iPhone and iPad is getting a new feature called Point and Speak, to assist users who have Low Vision or are Blind. It will let them interact with physical objects such as appliances (e.g. microwave) that have many text labels.

Point and Speak will read and announce the text on each button as the user moves their finger on the keypad. It does this by using camera, the LiDAR Scanner, and on-device machine learning. The feature will support VoiceOVer, People Detection, Door Detection, and Image Descriptions.

Increase Text Size in apps

macOS will allow users to adjust the Text Size across Mac apps such as Finder, Messages, Mail, Calendar, and Notes. So you can increase or decrease the font size per your requirement.

Additional accessibility features

Users who are deaf or hard-of-hearing users will be able to connect their Made for iPhone hearing devices directly to Mac, they will also be able to customize the settings for their hearing comfort. Switch Control allows users with physical and motor disabilities to turn any switch into a virtual game control to play games on iPhone and iPad. Messages and Safari will gain an option to automatically pause GIFs and other images with moving elements, this can be handy for users who are sensitive to rapid animations.

Voice Control will offer phonetic suggestions for words while editing text to assist users who type with their voice. Users may use Voice Control Guide to learn more about using voice commands for touch and type. Siri's rate of speech can be customized in VoiceOVer, it can be set from 0.8x to 2x. Apple says that Siri voices will sound natural and expressive even at high rates of speech.

SignTime to launch in 4 countries

Apple is set to introduce SignTime in Germany, Italy, Spain, and South Korea on May 18th. It is already available in the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, Australia, and Japan. The service will allow users to connect to Apple Store and Apple Support with on-demand sign language interpreters.

It's great to see Apple focus on accessibility features that will improve the lives of users. These features could be demoed at WWDC 2023. Personally, I'm looking forward to the option to adjust the Text Size in apps.

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Apple previews Assistive Access, Personal Voice, Live Speech and other accessibility improvements in macOS and iOS
Apple has previewed Assistive Access, Personal Voice, Live Speech and other accessibility improvements to help users.
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