Saturday, October 26, 2013

Apple's Announcements Impact on Accessibility

This week Apple announced a variety of new hardware and software products at media event. While Apple executives didn't devote stage time to accessibility announcements as they have in years past, the announcements still impact accessibility and assistive technology.


Apple previewed OS X Mavericks at their World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June. This week Apple released the Mac operating system to the public and announced that it would be a free update. Like iOS 7, Mavericks includes some exciting accessibility improvements including enhanced dictation and Switch Control. Click to read more about each new feature.

The main focus of the event was updated iPads. Apple released a new full size iPad named iPad Air. The iPad Air is considerably thinner and lighter than the previous full size iPad. In addition to the slimmer design Apple included the new A7 processor which increases performance. The iPad mini was also updated to include a higher quality retina display and is now called the iPad mini with Retina display. Notably, the new iPads don't include Apple's new Touch ID finger print sensor that debut on the iPhone 5s.

Updated Apps

Apple updated their iLife and iWork software for both the Mac and iOS devices. The updates have some useful new features, but I have not found any new accessibility features in these updates. Notably, Apple's education focused iOS apps iBooks and iTunes U were not updated. I'm hopeful that these apps will be updated soon and include new features. In particular, I hope Apple adds improved text-to-speech integration for iBooks. In particular I hope a "read" or "speak" button will be added to allow continuous text-to-speech with highlighting for all books. Currently continuous text-to-speech with highlighting is not possible in iBooks. 

iOS 7.0.3

iOS 7.0.3 is a minor update to iOS 7 but the new release includes a few accessibility improvements. In iOS 7.0.3 the reduce motion accessibility setting decreases navigation animations. This is designed to limit motion sickness that some users reported after updating to iOS 7. iOS 7.0.3 also includes VoiceOver fixes for a sensitivity issue that was present in previous versions of iOS 7.

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