13 essential Apple Accessibility improvements coming this fall

Apple leads the industry in putting accessiblity as a core component of its operating systems

Apple, WWDC, iOS, macOS, tvOS, watchOS, accessibility

Apple engineer and digital DJ, Ryan Dour, wowed the crowd with his demo of the accessibility features built inside Apple Award Winner, Djay Pro at WWDC 2016.

Credit: Apple

Apple has put together plenty of accessibility enhancements across all its operating systems for release this fall. Inspired by a great story about Apple engineer, Jordyn Castor, I thought I'd explain some of these today.

Apple has consistently dedicated itself to ensuring its core products are accessible for no extra cost for decades. This means access is a core system component, rather than being an add-on accessory. This philosophical differenc sets Apple apart.

[Also read: 10 accessibility tweaks every iPhone user should learn]

So, what accessibility improvements can you expect in Apple’s new operating systems when they ship this fall?

Taptic time

Taptic time allows you to silently feel the time instead of hearing it. It’s available with three time telling options including Digits, Terse and Morse Code, meaning blind users don’t have to ask VoiceOver to tell them this. VoiceOver is widely used in the partially sighted community.

iOS 10 Magnifier

Magnifier lets you use your camera as a magnifying glass. You can access things like the camera flash and grab freeze frames. You can also adjust color filters to get a better view. This is going to be a “must use” feature for anyone who is partially sighted. Enabled in Settings>General>Accessibility>Magnifier.


Don’t underestimate how useful Siri will be to help make all Apple’s platforms accessible to more users.

Apple TV, Switch Control

People of limited mobility will be able to use Switch Control with Apple TV to navigate the system with a single hardware switch. This provides a cursor to navigate on-screen elements and an optional on-screen version of the Siri Remote. What’s even better is that you can use your iPhone (or Mac) as a Switch from which to control your TV using the new “Control other devices” option in the iOS Switch Control menu.

macOS, Dwell control

Dwell hardware uses a headset or eye movements to control events on-screen. This lets users with limited mobility to control the mouse, set timers and much more.

Color control

All three operating systems gain a feature that lets users tint the color of the entire display, which can assist people who are color blind. You access this (on iOS) in General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters.

iOS 10: Software TTY

This is an important tool for the hearing impaired. Like Hardware TTY devices, it lets users use their iPhone to communicate even though they can’t hear well, using text. The feature is supplemented with TTY-specific QuickType predictions, such as “GA” for the commonly used “Go Ahead” prompt that lets people know it’s time to respond. Transcripts are saved in the Phone app.

Take a few moments to understand the benefits of accessible design with deaf blind disability rights activist, Haben Girma, who spoke at WWDC 2016 (transcript).


Automatic log-in to your Mac has to be useful to every user.

iOS: Voicemail transcripts

Voicemail transcripts on iPhone may be useful to everyone who can use them, but could open up new communication opportunities for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

For dyslexia

Apple is improving speech selection in the OS in order to help those with dyslexia. Apple has implemented improvements to Speak Selection and Speak Screen to help people better understand the text that's already been entered. The company has also implemented new audio feedback for typing to help people catch mistakes.

Wheelchair fitness

Apple’s new Wheelchair Fitness Activity tracker is an impressive and original piece of tech, explored in far more detail here.


A digital DJ app called djay Pro won an Apple Design Award this year, partially because it’s great software for any digital DJ, but also because of its outstanding support for VoiceOver. That support means blind or partially sighted DJs can mix like a pro – watch this video from the 5-minute mark for more on this.

Developers, developers, developers

What’s critical about Apple’s accessibility tools is that it also provides API’s developers can use to make sure their own apps are fully accessible to everyone, as is detailed in this extensive WWDC transcript.

Are you aware of any other newly-revealed accessibility features I’ve not spotted yet? Please let me (and everyone else) know in comments below. If you use accessibility solutions how do you use them?

Google+? If you use social media and happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

Want Apple TV tips? If you want to learn how to get the very best out of your Apple TV, please visit my Apple TV website.

Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when fresh items are published here first on Computerworld.

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