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May 16, 2023
Apple introduces new features for cognitive accessibility, along with Live Speech, Personal Voice, and Point and Speak in Magnifier
New software features for cognitive, speech, and vision accessibility are coming later this year
CUPERTINO, CALIFORNIA Apple today previewed software features for cognitive, vision, hearing, and mobility accessibility, along with innovative tools for individuals who are nonspeaking or at risk of losing their ability to speak. These updates draw on advances in hardware and software, include on-device machine learning to ensure user privacy, and expand on Apple’s long-standing commitment to making products for everyone.
Apple works in deep collaboration with community groups representing a broad spectrum of users with disabilities to develop accessibility features that make a real impact on people’s lives. Coming later this year, users with cognitive disabilities can use iPhone and iPad with greater ease and independence with Assistive Access; nonspeaking individuals can type to speak during calls and conversations with Live Speech; and those at risk of losing their ability to speak can use Personal Voice to create a synthesized voice that sounds like them for connecting with family and friends. For users who are blind or have low vision, Detection Mode in Magnifier offers Point and Speak, which identifies text users point toward and reads it out loud to help them interact with physical objects such as household appliances.
“At Apple, we’ve always believed that the best technology is technology built for everyone,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Today, we’re excited to share incredible new features that build on our long history of making technology accessible, so that everyone has the opportunity to create, communicate, and do what they love.”
“Accessibility is part of everything we do at Apple,” said Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s senior director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives. “These groundbreaking features were designed with feedback from members of disability communities every step of the way, to support a diverse set of users and help people connect in new ways.”
Assistive Access Supports Users with Cognitive Disabilities
Assistive Access uses innovations in design to distill apps and experiences to their essential features in order to lighten cognitive load. The feature reflects feedback from people with cognitive disabilities and their trusted supporters — focusing on the activities they enjoy — and that are foundational to iPhone and iPad: connecting with loved ones, capturing and enjoying photos, and listening to music.
Assistive Access includes a customized experience for Phone and FaceTime, which have been combined into a single Calls app, as well as Messages, Camera, Photos, and Music. The feature offers a distinct interface with high contrast buttons and large text labels, as well as tools to help trusted supporters tailor the experience for the individual they support. For example, for users who prefer communicating visually, Messages includes an emoji-only keyboard and the option to record a video message to share with loved ones. Users and trusted supporters can also choose between a more visual, grid-based layout for their Home Screen and apps, or a row-based layout for users who prefer text.
“The intellectual and developmental disability community is bursting with creativity, but technology often poses physical, visual, or knowledge barriers for these individuals,” said Katy Schmid, senior director of National Program Initiatives at The Arc of the United States. “To have a feature that provides a cognitively accessible experience on iPhone or iPad — that means more open doors to education, employment, safety, and autonomy. It means broadening worlds and expanding potential.”
Live Speech and Personal Voice Advance Speech Accessibility
With Live Speech on iPhone, iPad, and Mac, users can type what they want to say to have it be spoken out loud during phone and FaceTime calls as well as in-person conversations. Users can also save commonly used phrases to chime in quickly during lively conversation with family, friends, and colleagues. Live Speech has been designed to support millions of people globally who are unable to speak or who have lost their speech over time.
For users at risk of losing their ability to speak — such as those with a recent diagnosis of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or other conditions that can progressively impact speaking ability — Personal Voice is a simple and secure way to create a voice that sounds like them.
Users can create a Personal Voice by reading along with a randomized set of text prompts to record 15 minutes of audio on iPhone or iPad. This speech accessibility feature uses on-device machine learning to keep users’ information private and secure, and integrates seamlessly with Live Speech so users can speak with their Personal Voice when connecting with loved ones.1
“At the end of the day, the most important thing is being able to communicate with friends and family,” said Philip Green, board member and ALS advocate at the Team Gleason nonprofit, who has experienced significant changes to his voice since receiving his ALS diagnosis in 2018. “If you can tell them you love them, in a voice that sounds like you, it makes all the difference in the world — and being able to create your synthetic voice on your iPhone in just 15 minutes is extraordinary.”
Detection Mode in Magnifier Introduces Point and Speak for Users Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision
Point and Speak in Magnifier makes it easier for users with vision disabilities to interact with physical objects that have several text labels. For example, while using a household appliance — such as a microwave — Point and Speak combines input from the camera, the LiDAR Scanner, and on-device machine learning to announce the text on each button as users move their finger across the keypad.2 Point and Speak is built into the Magnifier app on iPhone and iPad, works great with VoiceOver, and can be used with other Magnifier features such as People Detection, Door Detection, and Image Descriptions to help users navigate their physical environment.
Celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day Around the World
To celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day, this week Apple is introducing new features, curated collections, and more:
Eric Hollister Williams
Apple Media Helpline
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Apple revolutionized personal technology with the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984. Today, Apple leads the world in innovation with iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. Apple’s five software platforms — iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS — provide seamless experiences across all Apple devices and empower people with breakthrough services including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay, and iCloud. Apple’s more than 100,000 employees are dedicated to making the best products on earth, and to leaving the world better than we found it.
Eric Hollister Williams
Apple Media Helpline
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