Accessibility FAQ: Everything you need to know about Apple's new accessibility portal

Dictation (Image credit: iMore)

Tim Cook took the beginning of Apple's fall 2016 event, where it announced a new series of MacBook Pros, to champion the company's commitment to accessibility across its product line.

Apple also took the opportunity to launch a new public accessibility portal (opens in new tab), where it showcases all of the new and ongoing features across macOS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS.

What exactly is accessibility?

It may sound simple, but accessibility is merely the overarching term Apple, and many companies, use when describing various features that help people with disabilities use products and technology that may not have been easy or possible to operate.

Apple has always taken great care to offer accessibility options in all of its products, but in recent years has doubled down on its commitment to making all of its products usable for everyone, including people with visual, hearing, motor, or learning limitations.

How does the new Accessibility portal work?

Apple has always showcased accessibility features on the public web pages and support documents of its various products, including iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV.

Now, the company has consolidated all of those features into a single portal that makes it easy to check what options people with, say, visual impairments may have when using a MacBook, iPhone, or Apple TV.

What kinds of accessibility features is Apple promoting?

You may already be familiar with VoiceOver on the iPhone (opens in new tab), which uses screen reading to describe what is on screen for people with limited or no vision. But Apple also works with hearing aid companies to optimize iPhone for people with hearing impairments, beaming the phone's audio directly over Bluetooth.

And some features, like FaceTime, may not be obviously seen as accessibility tools, but since it debuted in 2010 with the iPhone 4 it has allowed millions of iPhone, iPad, and Mac users to communicate visually, from anywhere, using sign language.

These are but some of the ways Apple intends to help promote accessibility.

What about that film we saw at the beginning of the event?

Apple has created a short film for the public (opens in new tab) highlighting not only the accessibility features of its products, but the amazing people who use them every day.


Got some questions for us about Apple's new Accessibility portal? Let us know!

Daniel Bader is a Senior Editor at iMore, offering his Canadian analysis on Apple and its awesome products. In addition to writing and producing, Daniel regularly appears on Canadian networks CBC and CTV as a technology analyst.

  • "Apple has always taken great care to offer accessibility options in all of its products, but in recent years has doubled down on its commitment to making all of its products usable for everyone, including people with visual, hearing, motor, or learning limitations." And yet it is exactly my poor eye sight that prevents me from using a Mac, and forces me to wield Windows and Linux dekstops which feature the necessary visual accessibility support that I need. Oh well. At the same time, Mac is the Apple product I would actually be interested in acquiring, not some silly, ridiculously-overpriced iPhone or iPad.
  • Wich features do you need?
    In my experience Apple offers more built-in features than microsoft. Microsoft has gotten better with Windows 8 and 10. 3rd party software is probably more rare on MacOS. But for example ZoomText is available. On mobile devices (iPhone and iPad) Apple is far ahead of its competition.Windows Mobile is quite good as well. Last time I looked on Android, it wasn't so good.
  • On my dekstop computer, I need the ability to employ high-contrast ( white text on a dark background) colour themes as well as large fonts for UI items and web pages, etc. OS X does not let the user to implement any such modifications. The user interface is, in effect, impossible for me to use. These features are routinely available on Linux and Windows desktops, though. Hence, I use them.
  • Thats not true that MacOs offers none of these options. There are some contrast and color options. Can't tell how effective they are. It mostly depends on, how you see.
    In my case the zoom does the job. No bigger fonts, instead using the zoom to increase things.
    Theming options arn't really part of the UI, 3rd parties probably can do more.
    I saw on the website of zoomtext that they offer much more contrast options and color filters. Its probably quite hard to implement the right features for everyone with a disability, because there is a really wide range o features and different people.
    The UI in windows and Linux was and is, much more open. This theming options in windows go back to at least version 3 and probably even longer. Its impressive that they didn't change too much there.
    To apples credit, other features like zoom and voiceover offer much more than windows or linux without 3rd party software. MacOS ist a very graphical system, if you don't use the Unix under it. I understand that Linux probably is the better system in that case. For me Linux on the desktop alway took to much time to manage.