Apple Previews New Accessibility Features, Including an Astonishing AssistiveTouch Feature for Apple Watch

Apple Newsroom:

Later this year, with software updates across all of Apple’s operating systems, people with limb differences will be able to navigate Apple Watch using AssistiveTouch; iPad will support third-party eye-tracking hardware for easier control; and for blind and low vision communities, Apple’s industry-leading VoiceOver screen reader will get even smarter using on-device intelligence to explore objects within images. In support of neurodiversity, Apple is introducing new background sounds to help minimize distractions, and for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, Made for iPhone (MFi) will soon support new bi-directional hearing aids.

My spidey-sense has been suggesting that next month’s WWDC is going to be a big one, jam-packed with announcements. Here’s our first evidence: a slew of very good accessibility features that apparently didn’t make the cut for the keynote. All of this stuff would have been great in a keynote.

To support users with limited mobility, Apple is introducing a revolutionary new accessibility feature for Apple Watch. AssistiveTouch for watchOS allows users with upper body limb differences to enjoy the benefits of Apple Watch without ever having to touch the display or controls. Using built-in motion sensors like the gyroscope and accelerometer, along with the optical heart rate sensor and on-device machine learning, Apple Watch can detect subtle differences in muscle movement and tendon activity, which lets users navigate a cursor on the display through a series of hand gestures, like a pinch or a clench. AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch enables customers who have limb differences to more easily answer incoming calls, control an onscreen motion pointer, and access Notification Center, Control Center, and more.

Stop what you’re doing, follow the link to Newsroom, and watch the video demonstrating this feature. This is really hard to believe. It makes Apple Watch very accessible to, say, someone who only has one arm, or who for whatever reason can’t use their non-watch hand to touch the watch with accuracy. Wow.

Wednesday, 19 May 2021