Apple Announces New Accessibility Features for iPhone, Hand Gesture Control on Apple Watch, More

Ali Salman
Apple Accessibility Features

Apple is introducing new accessibility features for various products and services. The company says that the new features are designed for people with vision, mobility, hearing, and cognitive disabilities. Apple believes that accessibility is a basic human right and the company's efforts prove its claims.

Apple Announces a Slew of New Accessibility Features For the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch and Most of Them Will Arrive Later This Year

Apple is introducing new features that revolve around communicating with support staff. iPad operations, Apple Watch navigation, and much more. If you are interested, you can check out more details on the new accessibility features on Apple's official website. It is great to see that the company's ongoing efforts provide users with disabilities a method through which they can interact with the latest tech products and take advantage of the utility.

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"At Apple, we've long felt that the world's best technology should respond to everyone's needs, and our teams work relentlessly to build accessibility into everything we make," said Sarah Herrlinger, Apple's senior director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives. "With these new features, we're pushing the boundaries of innovation with next-generation technologies that bring the fun and function of Apple technology to even more people -- and we can't wait to share them with our users."

Check out some of the new accessibility features that Apple is bringing to the table.

  • Background Sounds - In support of neurodiversity, Apple is adding a Background Sounds feature that's designed to minimize distractions to help users stay focus, stay calm, or rest. Balanced, bright, or dark noise sounds are available, as well as ocean, rain, or stream sounds. All of the sounds can be set to play in the background to mask unwanted environmental or external noise. Apple says the sounds mix into or duck under other audio and system sounds.
  • AssistiveTouch - For users with limited mobility, AssistiveTouch will allow the Apple Watch to be used without the need to touch the display or the controls. Built-in motion sensors, the optical heart rate sensor, and on-device machine learning will let Apple Watch detect subtle differences in muscle movement and tendon activity that will control a cursor on the screen through hand gestures like a pinch or a clench. AssistiveTouch launches later this year.
  • iPad Eye-Tracking - Later this year, iPadOS will support third-party eye-tracking devices to let people control ‌iPad‌ with their eyes.
  • SignTime - SignTime will allow customers to communicate with AppleCare and retail customer care using American Sign Language in the United States, British Sign Language (BSL) in the UK, or French Sign Language (LSF) in France using a web browser. SignTime launches May 20.
  • New Memoji Customizations - New memojis are coming to better represent users with oxygen tubes, cochlear implants, and a soft helmet for headwear.
  • VoiceOver Improvements - Recent updates to VoiceOver let users explore more details about people, text, table data, and other objects within images. VoiceOver can describe a person's position along with other objects in images, and with Markup, users can add image descriptions to personalize their photos.
  • MFi Hearing Aid Improvements - Apple is introducing new support for bi-directional hearing aids, enabling hands-free phone and FaceTime conversations. Next-generation models from MFi partners are coming later this year.
  • Audiograms for Headphone Accommodations - Headphone Accommodations will gain support for audiograms, so users can customize their audio by importing their latest hearing test results.
  • Sound Actions for Switch Control - This replaces physical buttons and switches with mouth sounds -- such as a click, pop, or "ee" sound -- for users who are non-speaking and have limited mobility.
  • Display and Text Size Settings - Will be customizable on a per-app basis for users with colorblindness or other vision challenges to make the screen easier to see.

Apple is announcing the new features as part of its celebrations of the Global Accessibility Awareness Day which takes place on May 20. Many of the features listed above are slated to arrive later this year, potentially with the release of iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and other platforms. In addition to this, Apple will host the WWDC event next month, so we will have further information on the scenario then. Check out more details here.

What are your thoughts on the new accessibility features? Let us know in the comments.

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