In every iOS release, Apple puts in a lot of effort to not just add mainstream features like Continuity, Extensions, but to also improve iOS’ already impressive set of accessibility tools. In this post, we list out all the accessibility improvements in iOS 8.
Natural Sounding VoiceOver
Current versions of iOS have a robotic-sounding VoiceOver that doesn’t feel as natural as OS X’s speech synthesis system. With iOS 8, Apple’s bringing OS X’s natural sounding voice called Alex to iPhone and iPad.
Speak Screen is a new feature in iOS 8, that speaks out the contents of the screen including text, buttons, labels etc. This feature can be triggered by a simple gesture, and will be great for people who are visually impaired. iOS 7 already has a similar feature called Speak Selection, but it only works with text that is currently selected.
Improvements to Zoom
iOS has had zoom since quite a few versions, that lets you zoom into the screen and then move around with the help of gestures. The feature is now more polished, and lets you specify which portion of the screen to zoom. The zoom level is adjustable too, and the keyboard appears in its normal size, even when zoom is active.
In addition to Invert Colors, Apple is introducing a new Grayscale mode that renders the entire user interface in gray scale rather than color.
Guided Access Improvements
Guided Access is an accessibility feature that lets you restrict your iOS device to a single app with a passcode, and disable unwanted gestures, and hardware buttons. With iOS 8, Guided Access lets you use Touch ID for authentication when quitting an app. Apple also hadded a feature that lets users configure a time limit for Guided Access, after which all parts of iOS are accessible without the need for any passcode.
Guided Access plays an important role in businesses, offices and schools where iPads are deployed and used to run just a single application.
Apple has added support for a 6 dot Braille keyboard throughout the system to help those who are visually impaired type.
Improved Made for iPhone hearing aids
Apple has several partners that manufacture Made for iPhone hearing aids that connect to the iPhone via Bluetooth, and provide a lot of accessibility features. With iOS 8, users who use a hearing aid with multiple devices will be able to switch between them easily. The user can also choose which device they’d like to connect to, if there are more than two devices paired.
Third Party Keyboards
Apple’s Extensibility framework lets third-party developers build their own custom, system-wide keyboards. This opens up the possibility of improving the default keyboard’s key size, spacing and organisation to better suit needs for those who are visually impaired.
Apple already had one of the best set of accessibility features in the smartphone and tablet business, and with iOS 8, it further improves upon these features to make iPhones and iPads even more useful for everyone.
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