Saturday, December 13, 2014

Apple Releases iOS 8 with Major Accessibility Improvements

Today, Apple released iOS 8 the latest software update for
iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. The new software, which is available for free,
includes many new features and enhancements, including new accessibility
features and tools that will allow developers to make the next generation of
apps. Apple has not stood still in terms accessibility and as a result, iOS 8
is truly the most accessible and inclusive iOS version to date.

Some of the most exciting new accessibility features are
included in iOS are ready to use right after updating. These features are developed
by Apple, and most are found under Settings > General > Accessibility.

Speak Screen is one of the new accessibility features that allows users to
quickly and easily have content on the screen read with text-to-speech with a
simple two finger swipe down gesture. Unlike older versions of iOS which
required users to highlight sections that they wished to be spoken, Speak
Screen does not require any highlighting. Users can even ask Siri
to “speak the screen” to start text-to-speech.

Apple’s highly acclaimed screen
reader, VoiceOver, also received some substantial updates. Now, VoiceOver users
can enter text using a system-wide virtual six-dot Braille keyboard. Zoom is
also vastly improved with windowed magnification and filters. Guided Access and
AssistiveTouch have seen smaller improvements.

In addition, all accessibility
features that use speech will now be able to use the Alex text-to-speech voice
that many Mac users enjoy. All of these features are included with the iOS 8
update. Stay tuned for in depth information about the features discussed above
in the coming days and weeks.

With iOS 8, Apple has given developers tools to make the
next generation of great apps. Hopefully, assistive app makers will be able to
take advantage of these new features to help people with various needs. Developers can now make system wide keyboard
apps. iOS keyboards will now be able to enter text into any
app if the developer updates the app for iOS 8. For example, Fleksy
and SwiftKey are expect to receive an update shortly to enable text
entry into any app. Developers can also add the ability to unlock their
app using Touch ID
finger print recognition for devices with Touch ID. Lastly, developers can
create extensions to allow their app to perform functions within other apps.
For example, a translation extension could be used within Safari to eliminate
the need to switch apps.

These features open up a whole new world to app developers
and it will be exciting to use some of the new apps that take advantage of
these new developer features. While some apps have already been updated to take
advantage of the new developer features in iOS, many have not been. Check back
to read about some apps that are taking advantage of these new developer
features in ways that can help people with disabilities.

iOS 8 is a free update that you can download now. Stay tuned
to the Assistive Technology Blog to learn more about the new included
accessibility features and about apps that take advantage of the new developer

Khondoker Hafizur Rahman

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