Apple Announces New Accessibility Features for iPhone and iPad. There's Even One to Help Reduce Motion Sickness

These new features not only improve the iPhone and the iPad. They benefit all users, regardless of their physical condition.

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Apple has announced a new range of accessibility features coming to iOS and iPadOS just weeks before WWDC 2024. These features will enable iPhone and iPad users with disabilities to better interact with their devices. The company confirmed the features will be available “later this year.”

Why this matters. These accessibility improvements can’t be overstated as they’re crucial to making tech easier to use for individuals who live with conditions that make it difficult to operate devices. Coming from a company like Apple, these improvements also hold symbolic power, representing the importance of inclusivity that takes into account all types of users.

What’s new. Here’s what’s coming to the iPhone and iPad:

  • Eye Tracking. This feature uses the front-facing camera and AI to enable users to control their devices only with their eyes. The information is processed locally and doesn’t leave the iPhone or iPad.
  • Music Haptics. This feature utilizes Apple’s haptic engine to translate sound into tactile cues, allowing deaf or hard-of-hearing users to experience music through vibrations or small impulses.
  • Vocal Shortcuts and Listen for Atypical Speech. Users will be able to create personalized voice commands that Siri can understand to perform specific tasks. This is designed for people with non-standard speech patterns or conditions that affect their oral communication.
  • Vehicle Motion Cues. This new feature is designed to assist individuals who experience motion sickness while using devices in moving vehicles. This feature utilizes visual cues in the form of animated dots across the screen, mimicking “changes in vehicle motion to help reduce sensory conflict,” as described by Apple. The aim is to reduce the sensation of motion sickness.
  • New Reader Mode in Magnifier. A new native Apple app enables zooming without the usual camera limitations to help individuals with visual impairments. This mode now includes a reading feature similar to Safari, converting real-world text into customizable fonts to facilitate easier reading.
Apple 1 New Magnifier’s Reader Mode. Image: Apple

New features also coming to CarPlay and visionOS. Both the iOS extension for cars and Vision Pro’s operating system are getting new accessibility features. CarPlay will now recognize ambient sounds during car travel, similar to iOS. For its part, visionOS will be able to integrate real-time subtitles for hearing-impaired users.

Apple 2 Real-time subtitles coming to visionOS. Image: Apple
Apple 3 CarPlay’s Sound Recognition. In this example, a siren sound alert. | Image: Apple

Apple’s advantage. Due to the vertical integration of its products (hardware, software, and services), Apple can add new features to all its devices more quickly. The company’s developers can combine hardware and software and then immediately integrate the new functions into its services. One such example is the upcoming Music Haptics feature, which will work with Apple Music.

These types of accessibility features are common offers by major tech companies, but Apple has a strong track record in this area and consistently introduces new features for users with disabilities in mind. Some of these new functions should arrive in upcoming iOS and iPadOS updates before the end of the year.

Image | Apple

Related | Apple Apologizes for iPad Pro Ad That Crushed Creativity With a Hydraulic Press

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