A summary of the ways in which various technology giants sought to meet the needs of people with disabilities last year shows that Apple’s accessibility record is better than that of most companies – but in one way it has made things worse.
The piece summarizes the gains and losses in accessibility of Apple, Amazon, Google, Meta, Microsoft and Twitter…
Engadget says Apple continues to lead the way in inclusive design.
In addition to updating its screen reader, VoiceOver, to enable better image descriptions for the visually impaired, Apple has also launched several new products. In May, it introduced a service called SignTime, which allowed users to hire sign language translators on demand when communicating with customer service representatives (at least through their browsers). The feature is available in the US, UK and France and supports US, UK or French sign languages in their countries.
Apple also introduced the Assistive Touch for the watch this year, allowing it to interact touchlessly with its wearable device. The idea is that users can clench their fists or clench their fingers to move around with a smartwatch. In practice, Assistive Touch has required some learning, and may still not be feasible for those who do not have the skills or strength to clench their fists to initiate a “double squeeze” action. But that’s a start, which offers several other smartwatches […]
This year, Apple also added improvements for users of hearing aids with iPhones, enabling two-way communication. This means that those who connect compatible hearing aids to their iPhone no longer have to use their headset’s microphone to be heard by callers – the hearing aid can also hear the speaker’s voice. So far, Starkey and ReSound have released compatible “made for iPhone” devices.
On macOS, Apple has also made it possible to customize the outline and color of the cursor fill so that visually impaired people can more easily tell when a mouse is moving or reshaping. The company has also expanded its keyboard shortcuts to allow users to control everything on their Mac using the keyboard (no need for a mouse or touchpad).
Finally, Apple has added tools for developers using SwiftUI to make their apps more accessible. With this simplified workflow, there are now fewer obstacles in the way of trying to make products more inclusive.
The American Council of the Blind, however, drew attention to one of Apple’s failures.
Unfortunately, when Apple released iOS 15, it removed some features from Siri that “many individuals used for accessibility purposes,” according to Clark Rachfal. He is the Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs for the American Council of the Blind. Rachfal told Engadget that users “could no longer access their call history, voicemail, emails and messages via Siri” when the OS was updated. The council and its members have warned Apple of these problems, he said, adding that the company said it was working to “restore this functionality to Siri”.
It’s worth reading the full article to see how other big tech companies compare.
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