Apple Is Launching a Major Accessibility Update

·2 min read

Apple has previewed new software meant to increase accessibility for users with disabilities. The software includes features which expand cognitive, speech, and vision accessibility.

In a press release, Apple detailed the new software, which will be released later this year and was created in collaboration with disabled people. “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.”

The updates include Live Speech, where users type what they want to say and it’s then spoken out loud during phone calls, FaceTimes, or real-life conversations. There’s even a feature called Personal Voice “for users at risk of losing their ability to speak… [it’s] a simple and secure way to create a voice that sounds like them.” Point and Speak will be another sought-after feature, increasing accessibility for people with vision-related disabilities by allowing them to point their camera at a physical object with a text label (like a household appliance) and have the text read aloud.

“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.”

The launch is just in time for Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), which seeks to raise awareness around digital access and inclusion for over a billion people with disabilities. In an email with Teen Vogue, Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s Senior Director, Accessibility Policy and Initiatives explained why this year is such a big deal for the brand. “Not only are we releasing significant improvements to features for people with cognitive, hearing, vision and mobility disabilities — but we are deepening our commitment to speech accessibility for a wide range of users who are nonspeaking or at risk of losing their ability to speak,” Herrlinger explained.  "Not having speech is different than not having something to say. That’s what Live Speech and Personal Voice are all about. With all of our accessibility features, we design in close collaboration with disability communities inside and outside Apple, because we know that we make better products when we design for a diverse set of users."

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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue