We use smartphones and smartwatches in our day-to-day life, and while all these devices come with accessibility features, not a lot of us are aware of them. I’m pretty sure that you may have come across these features in the Settings menu of your smartphone at some point. These are the features that are specially designed for people with disabilities, with an aim to take disability out of the equation.
Thursday, May 17 is celebrated as Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and Apple is highlighting a few ways in which it has worked to make life easier for people with disabilities. Apple has also dedicated the iOS App Store homepage to highlight accessibility apps such as DigitEyes, which is basically a barcode reader, BeMyEyes, an app for the blind or visually impaired, BlindSquare for indoor and outdoor navigation, and more. Here’s a look at different accessibility features that you can find on the iPhone and Apple Watch.
iPhone accessibility features for the visually impaired
For the visually impaired, Apple has included as many as 12 accessibility features. Each feature is designed to help the users in operating the smartphone. The VoiceOver feature uses gesture-based screen reader to let users know use the iPhone without seeing the screen. With the feature enabled, one can simply triple-click on the Home button to access VoiceOver feature from anywhere in the iOS. It will offer a description of everything on the screen, right from the person calling you, to the battery level. And there are built-in voices in over 30 languages.
As the VoiceOver feature is integrated in the iOS, it will work with all built-in iPhone apps, and third-party apps as well. Apple also mentioned that it works with the developers to make these features accessible in their apps. There is also voiceover image recognition that will tell you if a photo features a dog, smiling faces, a tree and much more. Also, it can read aloud text from the image file.
With VoiceOver gestures, you can easily control the iPhone with simple gestures. Simply tap the button to hear a description, and double tap to select it. And when you want privacy, you can enable screen curtain that will turn off the display completely, but you will still keep hearing the voice.
Then you also get VoiceOver text input, where it will read aloud each character on the keyboard as you touch it, and once again when you enter it. A VoiceOver Braille Keyboard is also present with support braille chords in six- and eight-dot. This enables direct braille entry without needing a physical braille keyboard.
For people with color blindness, iOS also lets you invert colors, enable greyscale, and reduce white point from the screen. Users can also choose from colour filters to support different forms of colour blindness.
iOS also includes zoom feature with built-in screen magnifier that works across the OS, and it is compatible with all the apps that are available on the App Store. Turning Zoom feature on, you can get full-screen or picture-in-picture view, depending on your needs. What’s more, you can adjust the magnification level between 100 and 1,500 percent.
Watch: Apple iPhone X Review
For those having difficulties in reading the text on the iPhone, there is a Speak Screen feature that reads aloud your iMessages, web page content, emails, and e-books. You can turn on this feature by swiping down from the top using two fingers, or just ask Siri to Speak Screen. You can also adjust the speaking rate and dialect of the voice as per your needs.
Lastly, there is dictation feature as well that lets you talk whatever you want to type, and the iPhone will do the speech to text translation for you. It makes things easier as you don’t need to type an e-mail, web address or take notes. And as a bonus, Hindi dictation is also available on iOS, a feature built for India.
iPhone features for hearing impaired
Hearing aids and sound processors
Apple has worked with manufacturers to create sound processors and hearing aids that are specially designed to work with iPhones and iPads. They offer good sound quality and can be easily setup and used as any other Bluetooth device.
Stereo recordings usually have distinct right and left channel audio tracks, and if a user is deaf in one ear, he / she may miss out on some audio. iOS can help to play both the audio channels in both ears to ensure you don’t miss a single note of word from the audiobook or concert.
When you get an incoming call or a FaceTime call, the iPhone will vibrate and alert you about the same. This also works for sent or received emails, text messages and calendar events. Users can also have different vibration patterns or create one of their own for different alerts.
Apple Watch accessibility features
Activity and Workout app
Apple Watch is a smartwatch, but as Apple says, it has built it with fitness in mind. The Activity app offers a snapshot of daily activities, and the goal is to close each of the three rings on a daily basis. The workout is a bit different for wheelchair users. Instead of stand goal, it will encourage them to roll or stretch every hour. And the sensors on the Apple Watch are calibrated for different surface types for inclines and transition movements, right from seating at your desk to moving from a wheelchair.
On the iPhone, Taptic Engine vibrates to intimate different types of pressure, from a tap to hard press, and the same goes with the Apple Watch too. It will give you a gentle tap to ensure you don’t miss out on a new message, an email, or a call.
Scribble and Font Adjustment
For those who don’t use voice dictation, there is a smart reply feature that lets you write back by scribbling letters on the display, and it will then convert it into text. You can also adjust the text size for different Apple Watch apps such as Messages, Settings, Mail and more, this making it easier to read. To make the text heavier, you can also choose bold text, and it works across all built-in apps.