Apple says major new accessibility tools are coming this year

Apple Accessibility Os Features 2022 Hero
Apple Accessibility Os Features 2022 Hero (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • New tools are coming this year.
  • Includes hardware, software, and machine learning.
  • Across multiple Apple products.

Update, May 17 (5:50 pm ET): Greg Joswiak shared a video showing how Apple's new accessibility feature "Door Detection" will work.

On Tuesday, Apple previewed new software features for users with disabilities. The new tools, expected to launch later this year, use hardware, software, and machine learning advancements. They touch many of Apple's leading software and hardware properties.

Among the new features are Door Detection, which will allow those who are blind or have low vision to use their iPhone and iPad to navigate the last few feet to their destination, Voice Control, and Switch Control for users with physical and motor disabilities so they can fully control Apple Watch from their mobile devices with Apple Watch Mirroring, and LIve Captions for the Deaf and hearing community for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Apple also is expanding support for screen reader VoiceOver with over 20 new languages and locales.

As Sarah Herrlinger, Apple's senior director of Accessibility Policy and Initiatives, explains: "Apple embeds accessibility into every aspect of our work, and we are committed to designing the best products and services for everyone. We're excited to introduce these new features, which combine innovation and creativity from teams across Apple to give users more options to use our products in ways that best suit their needs and lives."

Described by Apple as a "cutting-edge navigation feature," Door Detection combines the power of LiDAR, camera, and on-device machine learning. It will be available in a new Detection Mode within Magnifier, the company's built-in app that supports blind and low vision users.

Meanwhile, new advances with Apple Watch through Apple Watch Mirroring will allow users to control Apple Watch remotely from their paired iPhone. With Apple Watch Mirroring, users can take advantage of iPhone's assistive features like Voice Control and Switch Control and use inputs like voice commands, sound actions, head tracking, etc. The mirroring technology uses hardware and software integration, including advances built into AirPlay.

Apple Accessibility Os Features 2022 Gesture

Apple Accessibility Os Features 2022 Gesture (Image credit: Apple)

For the Deaf and hard of hearing community, the company will soon introduce Live Captions for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. The technology will allow users to follow along more easily with any audio content for a much more helpful experience. Examples of use include placing FaceTime calls, using a video conferencing or social media app, streaming media content, and more.

Apple's VoiceOver technology is coming to 20 additional locales and languages, including Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese. Additionally, VoiceOver users on Mac can use a new Text Checker tool to discover common formatting issues such as duplicative spaces or misplaced capital letters, making proofreading documents or emails even more manageable.

Other new accessibility features announced today, May 17, including

With Buddy Controller, users can ask a care provider or friend to help them play a game; Buddy Controller combines any two game controllers into one, so multiple controllers can drive the input for a single player.With Siri Pause Time, users with speech disabilities can adjust how long Siri waits before responding to a request.Voice Control Spelling Mode gives users the option to dictate custom spellings using letter-by-letter input.5Sound Recognition can be customized to recognize sounds that are specific to a person's environment, like their home's unique alarm, doorbell, or appliances.The Apple Books app will offer new themes, and introduce customization options such as bolding text and adjusting line, character, and word spacing for an even more accessible reading experience.

These features will be available later this year with software updates across Apple platforms.

Update, May 17 (5:50 pm ET) — Greg Joswiak shared a video showing how Apple's new accessibility feature "Door Detection" will work.

Greg Joswiak, Apple's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, posted a video to Twitter showing how the company's new accessibility feature "Door Detection" will work. The video was in the press release but if you didn't happen to read that you can still check out the new feature below:

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.