Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Apple Releases iOS 8 with Major Accessibility Improvements

Today, Apple released iOS 8 the latest software update for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. The new software, which is available for free, includes many new features and enhancements, including new accessibility features and tools that will allow developers to make the next generation of apps. Apple has not stood still in terms accessibility and as a result, iOS 8 is truly the most accessible and inclusive iOS version to date.

Some of the most exciting new accessibility features are included in iOS are ready to use right after updating. These features are developed by Apple, and most are found under Settings > General > Accessibility.

Speak Screen is one of the new accessibility features that allows users to quickly and easily have content on the screen read with text-to-speech with a simple two finger swipe down gesture. Unlike older versions of iOS which required users to highlight sections that they wished to be spoken, Speak Screen does not require any highlighting. Users can even ask Siri to “speak the screen” to start text-to-speech.

Apple’s highly acclaimed screen reader, VoiceOver, also received some substantial updates. Now, VoiceOver users can enter text using a system-wide virtual six-dot Braille keyboard. Zoom is also vastly improved with windowed magnification and filters. Guided Access and AssistiveTouch have seen smaller improvements.

In addition, all accessibility features that use speech will now be able to use the Alex text-to-speech voice that many Mac users enjoy. All of these features are included with the iOS 8 update. Stay tuned for in depth information about the features discussed above in the coming days and weeks.

With iOS 8, Apple has given developers tools to make the next generation of great apps. Hopefully, assistive app makers will be able to take advantage of these new features to help people with various needs. Developers can now make system wide keyboard apps. iOS keyboards will now be able to enter text into any app if the developer updates the app for iOS 8. For example, Fleksy and SwiftKey are expect to receive an update shortly to enable text entry into any app. Developers can also add the ability to unlock their app using Touch ID finger print recognition for devices with Touch ID. Lastly, developers can create extensions to allow their app to perform functions within other apps. For example, a translation extension could be used within Safari to eliminate the need to switch apps.

These features open up a whole new world to app developers and it will be exciting to use some of the new apps that take advantage of these new developer features. While some apps have already been updated to take advantage of the new developer features in iOS, many have not been. Check back to read about some apps that are taking advantage of these new developer features in ways that can help people with disabilities.

iOS 8 is a free update that you can download now. Stay tuned to the Assistive Technology Blog to learn more about the new included accessibility features and about apps that take advantage of the new developer features.


  1. Did you see that Speak Screen does word level highlighting within iBooks and automatically scrolls the same

    1. Hi Gerardo,

      I hope you have been doing well. Thanks for the comment. I was very excited to see that Speak Screen makes the experience with TTS much better in iBooks! Also, the Alex voice is a nice addition. Thanks again.