Force Touch is going to do incredible things for accessibility

I've been thinking about Force Touch almost non-stop since the Apple event a few weeks ago — what it means for Macs now, what it could mean for the future of software development, and how it might change artistry on the iPad. I've also been musing on what it could bring to accessibility in computing.

What if we had a trackpad or other surface that could simulate Braille, for instance, if a setting was turned on? Or a Force Touch trigger that would let you know if you'd moved to the edge of a window, or on a button? There are so many potential avenues for exploration here — a thought accessibility ace Steven Aquino expounded upon in an article for MacStories:

Imagine, for example, iOS 10 or 11. Apple will almost assuredly bring Force Touch to the iPhone and iPad, and they could utilize the technology in a slew of ways. They could effectively solve the problem with buttons in iOS 7 and 8 by using haptic feedback to denote a "button press" everywhere in the system. Thus, visually impaired users like me wouldn't have to struggle so much in figuring out what's a button versus a text label. Likewise, Force Touch could save those with motor challenges from the work of extra taps by allowing force-pressing to bring up contextually-specific controls. There are lots of possibilities here.

Aquino has written for iMore previously on tech accessibility, and he's a smart cookie when it comes to this stuff — I can't wait to hear what he has to say once he's spent more than a few moments with a Force Touch trackpad.

His article more than ever convinces me as to the power of Force Touch in the tech disability landscape. During my time at the Apple Store, I once worked with a woman who suffered from partial blindness: In order for her to properly work at her laptop, she needed several accessories —  including a Braille keyboard — during her training appointment; although we managed to help her get what she needed done, it was still a struggle for her.

With Force Touch, it's easier to imagine a future where the only laptop accessory she'd need was the laptop itself. And that's overwhelmingly exciting.

More: MacStories

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

  • I'm curious, (and somewhat dubious) not having experienced this tech in person, as to whether it can really simulate a button on the screen. Having seen Apple's diagrams of the hardware, I don't see how the vibration can be associated with any particular part or location. It seems to me that the whole track pad vibrates instead. Anyway, I don't want to be too negative. I have no experience to guide me until they get these things in my local Apple store.
  • It's not vibration. It's taptic feedback. It's different than the vibration engine inside your phone. It feels more like a touch or pulse. Sent from the iMore App
  • @Serenity as a woman, you don't see anything wrong with calling this new tech "force touch"? I hate that term for this new tech. I can't see myself supporting Clients and saying to them "force touch". Can we get a petition going to change that terminology?
  • That's sarcastic right? Sent from the iMore App
  • Not at all. You can check some of my other posts on here. I really have a problem with "force touch" and the apple watch being described as "intimate". Wtf is going on? Sent from the iMore App
  • One of the stupidest comments I've ever read.....
  • thank you for the kind words.
  • She wasn't being kind. She was saying what everyone on here weren't brave enough to tell you. What's in a name "Force Touch"? you are the only one on here who has a problem with it's name and you have serious issues, seek help.
  • Put it in a Magic Trackpad and I'm sold. Sent from the iMore App
  • Imagine how cool it would be if menus and windows and such could be "thumbnailed" in texture on the trackpad! A mode where a visually-impaired person could grab a window, then switch it to "displaying" something like Braille. That would be so cool. I love that Apple spends so much time on accessibility options. Even those of us without significant disability benefit from some of them.