Apple is launching a new SignTime service on May 20

Apple Signtime New Accessibility
Apple Signtime New Accessibility (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • SignTime launches May 20, allowing customers access to on-demand sign language interpreters.
  • Initial countries supporting SignTime will be the US, UK, and France, with more countries supporting it in the future.
  • There will also be a bunch of new accessibility features added across all of Apple's software later this year.

Apple has just announced it is launching a new SignTime service on May 20. This service will connect Apple Store and Apple Support customers to on-demand sign language interpreters for one-on-one shopping and support sessions.

The new SignTime service is aimed for people with mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive disabilities. This service highlights Apple's core belief that accessibility is a human right and progresses the company's history of providing features and services that make Apple products customizable and usable for users, regardless of disabilities.

SignTime will launch on Thursday, May 20, 2021. This service lets customers communicate with both AppleCare and Retail Customer Care through the use of American Sign Language (ASL) in the US, British Sign Language (BSL) in the UK, or French Sign Language (LSF) in France. All of this will be done through a web browser. Customers who use this feature will also be able to use SignTime to remotely access a sign language interpreter without the need to book ahead. SignTime will launch in the US, UK, and France initially, but there are plans to expand to additional countries in the future.

"At Apple, we've long felt that the world's best technology should respond to everyone's needs, and our teams work relentlessly to build accessibility into everything we make. With these new features, we're pushing the boundaries of innovation with next-generation technologies that bring the fun and function of Apple technology to even more people — and we can't wait to share them with our users." Sarah Herrlinger, Apple's senior director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives

Later on in the year, there will also be software updates across all of Apple's operating systems to make them more accessible for all, including iOS and macOS. This includes AssistiveTouch for Apple Watch, Eye-Tracking Support for iPad, Explore Images with VoiceOver, Made for iPhone Hearing Aids and Audiogram Support, Background Sounds, and more.

AssistiveTouch is geared for users with limited mobility. This feature lets users with upper body limb differences to enjoy the benefits of an Apple Watch without ever needing to touch the display or controls.

Eye-Tracking Support on the best iPads allows people to control the iPad using just their eyes. Explore Images with VoiceOver will give users even more details about the people, text, table data, and other objects within the images on their screen. For example, users can navigate a photo of a receipt like a table by row and column, with table headers. It can even describe someone's position along with other objects within the image, making it possible to relive the moment or memory.

With Made for iPhone Hearing Aids and Audiogram Support, there will be new support for bi-directional hearing aids. Those who are deaf or hard of hearing will be able to make hands-free phone and FaceTime conversations with others. Audiogram support means that you'll be able to see the results of a hearing test in Headphone Accommodations.

Finally, the last major feature is Background Sounds. These are made to help minimize distractions and help users focus, stay calm, or even rest. There will be balanced, bright, or dark noises to choose from, and these will play continuously in the background.

There are some other features that are coming later in the year, which include Sound Actions for Switch Control, Display and Text Size settings, new Memoji customizations, and more. You can check out all of the upcoming features on Apple's website.

Christine Chan

Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.

When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.