Home Tech News Unlocking the Power of iOS 17 Accessibility Features

Unlocking the Power of iOS 17 Accessibility Features

Posted: October 11, 2023


Introduction to iOS 17 Accessibility Features

Apple continues to pioneer digital accessibility with its newest operating system, iOS 17. This new iteration comes packed with abundant powerful accessibility features designed to optimize the user experience for everyone–including individuals with various disabilities. These features are not limited to those with impairments but can also enhance the overall user experience, proving surprisingly effective for all users.

Inclusivity Beyond Accessibility

Including these features extends beyond making the phone user-friendly for people with disabilities. Even those who are not visually or hearing impaired can benefit from them. Apple's forward-thinking approach has meant the creation of features that allow for silent video watching with live captions, security through locking your phone to a single app to prevent privacy invasion, and providing soothing sounds for relaxation and focus.

Key Features Included in iOS 17

Apple's iOS 17 presents five robust accessibility features based on their previous utility and convenience. SElite Assistive Access simplifies your phone's use by reducing it to its essentials. This makes it less confusing and, hence, easier to use. Live Speech and Personal Voice provide a means to communicate by typing in on the keyboard, which can then be read out loud in your voice. Finally, tools such as Detection Mode and Point and Speak utilize the iPhone's camera to help users navigate their surroundings, adding another layer of convenience and efficiency to the iPhone experience.

Assistive Access Feature

The Assistive Access feature is the first powerful tool highlighted in iOS 17. Created with simplicity in mind, it effectively reduces the standard iPhone apps down to their most essential functions. This feature offers a solution for those overwhelmed by traditional smartphone features, lowering the cognitive load and enabling users to take advantage of the modern device without any stress or confusion.

The Jitterbug Comparison

Drawing parallels from the past, the Assistive Access feature can be likened to the older 'Jitterbug' flip phones. Known for their simplistic design, these phones had limited features with large numeric buttons and were primarily marketed to older users. Fast forward to today, and Assistive Access can be seen as a sophisticated modern take on the Jitterbug, delivering a rich user experience without any of the complexities often associated with smartphones.

Beyond Just Simplification

Assistive Access is not just a simple reduction of functions. It is a complete user interface refinement, providing a streamlined experience with big, easily identifiable buttons for major features like Messages, Calls, and Camera. From shooting pictures to sending text messages and making calls, these features become incredibly straightforward with Assistive Access.

Catering to Cognitive Needs

At its core, this function caters to people with cognitive disabilities, providing them with an accessible option to perform everyday tasks more easily. Its design allows it to offer a more focused array of choices, assist with daily tasks, and even ease the identification process of people and places. Siri further complements these functions, making the activation of these accessibility features simpler with voice commands.

Live Speech and Personal Voice Features

Jointly, the Live Speech and Personal Voice features in iOS 17 offer an innovative approach to communication. The Live Speech feature allows for text conversions to vocalize speech, proving critical for users with difficulties with conventional communication methods. This tool can be activated through Settings > Accessibility > Live Speech.

Introduction to the Personal Voice Feature

Building on the functionality of Live Speech is another impressive tool - the Personal Voice feature. This feature allows users to convert written text into speech using their own voice. This elevates the realism of the communication, allowing users to maintain the uniqueness of their voice in text-to-speech translations. This feature could especially benefit individuals who risk losing their speaking ability due to conditions like ALS.

Setting Up the Personal Voice

Setting up the Personal Voice requires the user to read out several phrases in a quiet space, holding the phone about 6 inches away. According to Apple, this can take anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour. Once completed, users need to keep their iPhone plugged in, allowing it to process the recordings and create a synthesized digital voice. The resulting Personal Voice is then visible as an option under Live Speech.

Comparison of the Digital Voice and Siri

Though the digital voice doesn't sound as expressive and emotive as the newer advanced voices for Siri, it still offers a unique benefit - the preservation of personal identity. There's a distinct difference between listening to your synthesized voice and the standard Siri voice. While the advanced Siri voices improve expressiveness, the Personal Voice feature ensures that users can retain their unique voice print in text-to-speech conversions.

Detection Mode and Point and Speak Features

The Detection Mode and Point and Speak features in iOS 17 work together to revolutionize how users interact with their surroundings. These advanced features in iOS 17 utilize the iPhone's camera to identify people, doors, appliances, and other objects, augmenting the user's natural sight with additional information culled by the device.

Detection Modes

Detection Mode is available through Apple's free Magnifier app and features three main functionalities: People Detection, Door Detection, and Image Descriptions.

People Detection gauges the distance from the user to another person, supporting social interactions and physical distancing. On the other hand, Door Detection goes a step further by identifying doors, assessing how close you are to the door, directions to open it, and verbalizing written content on it. The Haptic feedback and clicking noises intensify as the user gets closer, providing further sensory navigation cues. Lastly, Image Descriptions give users a detailed audio description of what their camera sees, utilizing object detection to describe the surroundings.

Understanding and Utilizing Point and Speak

Not far behind the Detection mode is the Point and Speak feature. This is designed to work along with Detection Mode, expanding its utility and ease of use. Activated from the Detection Mode, Point, and Speak allows a user to simply point at an object, and the iPhone will read out the details to them. This can be particularly useful for visually impaired users who have difficulty reading small print or deciphering certain visuals. For instance, if you struggle to read the markings on your oven dial, your iPhone can read the numbers for you, ensuring the right temperature for your roast and the safety of your home. The Point and Speak feature does require clarity in hand gestures for effective use but yields impressive results.