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Apple Announces New Accessibility Features for iPhone, iPad and AppleWatch - June, 2021

On May 19 last, Apple launched a press release entitled, “Apple Previews Powerful Software Updates Designed For People With Disabilities” ( https://www.apple.com/au/newsroom/2021/05/apple-previews-powerful-software-updates-designed-for-people-with-disabilities/).

Apple already has an impressive range of accessibility features such as those listed in its guide, “Get Started With Accessibility Features On iPhone” ( https://support.apple.com/en-au/guide/iphone/iph3e2e4367/ios) but this week made several very useful additions either available immediately or in the near future.

Amongst these is the ability to manipulate an Apple Watch without physically touching the screen. With Assistive Touch the watch can 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. A user with limited mobility can more easily answer incoming calls, control an onscreen motion pointer, and access Notification Center, Control Center, etc.

Another newly released feature called SignTime is currently limited to US, French and UK users though Apple says there are “plans to expand to additional countries in the future”. According to Shara Tibken’s recent article in C-Net (https://www.cnet.com/news/apple-brings-sign-language-support-to-its-stores-plans-new-accessibility-features/),

Apple has long offered the ability for people who are deaf to set up sessions with sign language interpreters in its stores, but those had to be scheduled in advance. Starting Thursday, anyone who walks into an Apple store will be able to communicate with the staff through sign language via a new service called SignTime. Using an iPad or iPhone, the Apple store employees will connect … with remote language interpreters over video to help communicate.

SignTime will also “let people … connect with sign language interpreters ,,, when contacting Apple support online.”

Audiograms for Headphone Accommodations. According to Tibken, along with additional support for the latest range of “Made For iPhone” hearing aids, Apple is now bringing support for recognizing audiograms, charts that show the results of a hearing test, to Headphone Accommodations, which launched as part of iOS 14. Headphones Accommodations lets you adjust the frequencies of audio streamed through your AirPods Pro, second-gen AirPods, select Beats headphones and EarPods. Each individual can customize the settings for what's right for them, either dampening or amplifying particular sounds. With the update coming later this year, you'll be able to quickly customize audio with your latest hearing test results imported from a paper or PDF audiogram.

There are numerous other new accessibility features listed in Apple’s press release ranging from accessibility-flavoured Apple Fitness + to disability themed Memojis. They are all nicely summarised in both Shara Tibken’s C-Net article and Juli Clover’s MacRumors piece, “Apple Announces New Background Sounds, Apple Watch AssistiveTouch, and Eye-Tracking Accessibility Features” ( https://www.macrumors.com/2021/05/19/apple-new-accessibility-features/).