(The Hill) — Apple Inc. unveiled an array of new features to make its products more accessible to users who suffer from cognitive, visual and speech impairments.
In a news release Wednesday, Apple said its new features which include Assistive Access, Live Speech, Personal Voice and Point and Speak, will “draw on advances in hardware and software,” including ensuring user privacy and expanding on the company’s “long-standing commitment to making products for everyone.”
“Accessibility is part of everything we do at Apple,” Sarah Herrlinger, senior director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives, said in a statement. “These groundbreaking features were designed with feedback from members of disability communities every step of the way, to support a diverse set of users and help people connect in new ways.”
The Assistive Access feature allows users with cognitive disabilities an easier, more enjoyable, and more customizable experience using their Apple products, which includes combining the Phone and FaceTime applications into a single Calls application. The new feature will also have a distinct interface with high-contrast buttons and large text labels, as well as tools to help users tailor the experience for the individual they support.
The Live Speech feature, tailored to non-speaking individuals, will allow users to type what they want to say and have their message spoken out loud during phone and FaceTime calls as well as in-person conversations, according to the news release. Users can also save commonly used phrases to chime in quickly during conversations.
The Personal Voice feature will allow users at risk of losing their ability to speak to create a synthesized voice that sounds like them to communicate with family and friends. Apple noted that users will have to read along with a randomized set of text prompts to record 15 minutes of audio.
Apple is also pushing out a new detection mode in the Magnifier application that will offer a Point and Speak feature, which identifies text users point toward and reads it out loud to help them interact with physical objects such as household appliances.
“At Apple, we’ve always believed that the best technology is technology built for everyone,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in the news release. “Today, we’re excited to share incredible new features that build on our long history of making technology accessible, so that everyone has the opportunity to create, communicate, and do what they love.”
The company said the new features will launch later this year on Apple devices.