Apple’s latest accessibility features are for those with limb and vocal differences – TechCrunch

3 Mins read

Apple announced a batch of accessibility features at WWDC 2021 that cover a wide variety of needs, among them a few for people who can’t touch or ordinarily speak to their devices. With Assistive Touch, Sound Control, and other improvements, these folks have new options for interacting with an iPhone or Apple Watch. We covered Assistive Touch when it was first announced but recently got more details. This feature lets anyone with an Apple Watch operate it with one hand using a variety of gestures. It came about when Apple heard from the community of people with limb differences — whether they’re missing an arm, unable to use it reliably, or anything else — that as much as they liked the Apple Watch, they were tired of answering calls with their noses.


The research team devised a way to reliably detect the gestures of pinching one finger to the thumb or clenching the hand into a fist based on how doing them causes the watch to move — it’s not detecting the nervous system signals or anything. These gestures and double versions can be set to various quick actions. Among them is opening the “motion cursor,” a tiny dot that mimics the movements of the user’s wrist. Considering how many people don’t use a hand, this could be a constructive way to get basic messaging, calling, and health-tracking tasks done without resorting to voice control. Speaking of voice, that’s something not everyone has at their disposal. However, many who can’t talk fluently can make many basic sounds, which can carry meaning for those who have learned — not so much Siri. But a new accessibility option called “Sound Control” lets these sounds be used as voice commands. You access it through Switch Control, not audio or voice, and add an audio switch.

The setup menu lets the user choose from various possible sounds: click, cluck, e, eh, k, la, much, oo, pop, sh, and more. Picking one brequiresa a quick training process to ensure the system understands the sound correctly. Then it can be set to a wide selection of actions, from launching apps to asking commonly spoken questions or invoking other tools. For those who prefer to interact with their Apple devices through a switch system, the company has a big surprise: Game controllers, once only able to be used for gaming, now work for general purposes. Expressly noted is the unique Xbox Adaptive Controller, a hub and group of buttons, switches, and other accessories that improve the accessibility of console games. This powerful tool is used by many, and undoubtedly they will appreciate not having to switch control methods entirely when they’re done with Fortnite and want to listen to a podcast.

One more exciting capability in iOS that sits at the edge of accessibility is Walking Steadiness. This feature, available to anyone with an iPhone, tracks (as you might guess) the Steadiness of the user’s walk. This metric, tracked throughout a day or week, can give a real insight into how and when a person’s locomotion is better or worse. It’s based on data collected in the Apple Heart and Movement study, including actual falls and the unsteady movement that led to them. If the user recently was fitted for a prosthesis, had foot surgery, or suffers from vertigo, knowing when and why they are at risk of falling can be very important.

They may not realize it, but perhaps their movements are less steady toward the end of the day, after climbing a flight of steps or waiting in line for a long time. It could also show steady improvements as they get used to an artificial limb or chronic pain declines. Exactly how an actual physical therapist or doctor may use this data is an open question, but importantly, it can easily be tracked and understood by the users themselves. Among Apple’s other assistive features are new languages for voice control, improved headphone acoustic accommodation, support for bidirectional hearing aids, and the addition of cochlear implants and oxygen tubes for emoji. As an Apple representative put it, they don’t want to embrace differences in features but on the personalization and fun side.

348 posts

About author
As a blogger, I’ve had the opportunity to share my experiences and insights with other people. The most important thing I’ve learned about blogging is that it’s not about me. It’s about connecting with others. I love the idea of using writing to build relationships. I’m always thinking about what I can do to make my blog more useful, interesting, and accessible to others. I enjoy talking about technology, health, finance, food, and travel.
Related posts

American Battery Technology Company

5 Mins read
American Electric Power, Inc. is an American electric utility company that operates in 16 states and the District of Columbia. It is…

User’s Guide to TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 – TechCrunch

2 Mins read
TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 approaches in just three days. Although the main show kicks off on Tuesday the 21st, some sneak peeks and…

Pokémon Unite is coming to iOS and Android on September 22 – TechCrunch

2 Mins read
During today’s Pokémon Presents Livestream, The Pokémon Company announced that Pokémon Unite would become available for iOS and Android on September 22….
Get All Latest Blog Direct In Your Website

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *