10 New Accessibility Features in iOS 8

Last week at Apple’s annual developer conference, the company announced the launch of its new mobile operating system, iOS 8.  Over the years, Apple has strived to make its products as accessible as possible for all users.  With the said mission in mind, though both OS X and iOS platforms currently offer many accessible features, Apple continues to improve their current features as well as add new ones.  During the conference, they gave an overview of features that may benefit those with disabilities.  Some of the enhanced or new accessibility features offered in iOS 8 include: 

  1. Grayscale
  2. Improved zoom
  3. Spotlight
  4. Braille Keyboard
  5. QuickType
  6. Multi-device support for MFi (Made For iPhone) hearing aids
  7. Touch ID improvements
  8. Alex voice
  9. In Case of Emergency Card
  10. Wi-Fi calls

1. First up is the Grayscale feature, which is comparable to the Invert Colors feature introduced in iOS 7 as it aids individuals with vision problems to better see content on the device.  The new Grayscale option is activated by a toggle switch found under “Accessibility > Vision”.  Upon activation, the phone’s content will turn from custom, bright colors to shades of gray, creating a greater contrast for users with low vision or other visual problems; users will be able to better view the iOS Home screen, built-in first-party apps, and third-party applications downloaded from the App Store.

2. Next, Apple improved its Zoom feature(s) by giving users the option to zoom in on everything except the keyboard.  This option is especially useful for individuals with low-vision upon entering information into web fields.  With the new enhancements, users can now zoom in on tiny labels and text fields–all while being able to use the keyboard.

3. Spotlight search already exists in iOS 7, but is arguably more accessible for users with communication impairments in iOS 8.  Spotlight in iOS 8 will give meaningful Siri-like answers, but unlike Siri, it uses text input, giving users the ability to type instead of speak, and get meaningful results.

4. One of the most exciting, highly-anticipated new features available on iOS 8 is the six-key Braille entry keyboard.  After years of waiting, third-party keyboards and Braille are coming to iOS, allowing individuals to use Braille to write texts directly into the Messages app, or Fleksy to type out an email or perform a search on iTunes or the App Store.

5. A second keyboard feature being offered is QuickType, which is context-sensitive predictive typing.  This allows individuals to respond in a more ergonomic, productive way.  This is ideal for individuals with mobility impairments or who often get fatigued typing out things on their devices.6.  With the update, Made for iPhone hearing aids will gain multi-device support.

7.  Touch ID is already great for individuals who are blind as it offers secure authentication without having to use VoiceOver to type, which can be a slow process.  In iOS 8, in addition to unlocking their device or make iTunes purchases, users will also be able to unlock information in third-party apps with the touch of a finger.

8.  Users can now use the higher-quality, much more natural sounding Alex voice already offered on OS X platforms on their iOS devices.

9.  There is a Health app added to iOS 8, and within this app is the In Case of Emergency Card.  This may seem rather insignificant, but in the event of an emergency–or even for those with communication challenges or struggle to remember medical details–this card will be useful.  The card contains important personal medical details such as existing conditions, current medications, allergies, and emergency contacts.

10. Users will now be able to make calls and send texts over the internet on Macs and iPads.  Wi-Fi calling is great for individuals who may have dropped or cannot reach their phone, and need assistance; this may also be terrifically convenient for those who prefer working on larger devices.  In the event that cellular-network signal is weak, users will still be able to make phone calls as long as there is a connection to the internet. The above is just a brief list of potential accessibility features, iOS 8 will not be available until this fall, thus features are not well-detailed quite yet.

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