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Apple’s iOS14 Includes New Accessibility Features for Disabled Users

At its Worldwide Developers Conference this week, Apple announced accessibility improvements to its iPhone 14 operating systems — iOS 14 and tvOS 14. Due to be released later this year, the features are a boon to users with visual, hearing, and motor disabilities, among other conditions. The new technology includes the following:

  • Sound recognition in iOS 14 will allow one to listen for 14 noises, including doorbells, sirens, smoke detectors, and crying babies.

  • Improvements to the VoiceOver screen reader will include reading text from images and photos.

  • A Back Tap feature can replace screen gestures that are difficult to perform for people with motor and cognitive disabilities. To access the notification center, all one needs to do is tap the back of the iPhone.

  • iOS 14 also has the ability to detect when someone is using sign language on FaceTime and to make that person easier to see.

  • tvOS will soon work with Microsoft Xbox’s adaptive controller.

  • The iPhone also makes headphone accommodations that adjust the sound frequencies of select Apple and Beats headphones to better match your hearing. These features result in sound that is more “crisp and clear.”

While Apple isn’t the first company to introduce such features, that such a widely used operating system is becoming more accessible will spur further industry innovation for disabled people. For its part, the Android 11 will provide measurable upgrades to its voice controls.

The Frontlines: Since a large minority of the population has at least one disability (about 25% of people), technology companies can tap into a growing customer base by making its products more accessible. However, many people with disabilities face barriers to using the internet.

  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that roughly one in four Americans has some kind of disability

  • Even a conservative figure indicates that 5 million people are hard of hearing, deaf, blind or have low vision that account for the biggest barriers to using the internet

  • 71% of people with disabilities leave a website immediately if it is not accessible

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