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Accessibility was all around this year’s WWDC


Steven Aquino is a freelance tech author and iOS accessibility expert.

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From this year’s WWDC keynote, there was one overarching thesis that emerged —  from watchOS 3’s unpractical simplification, to Siri entrance to a Mac, to a “app store” in Messages, it became transparent that Apple is focused on creation a program some-more permitted than ever before.

These features, among others, were built with a vigilant of giving users — and generally developers — incomparable entrance to Apple’s platforms and a apps users love. This underscores a thought that accessibility, conceptually, is many some-more than usually a dissimilar “accessibility options for people with disabilities”. At a heart, accessibility is about usually that: access. You don’t need to have a incapacity to advantage from it.

At a same time, a accessibility village has tons to demeanour brazen to this fall. Across Apple’s 4 program platforms there are many new things to be vehement about — like a new diction editor in VoiceOver on iOS 10 and tvOS; and Taptic Time in watchOS 3, that uses Apple Watch’s haptic feedback to tell a VoiceOver user a time in environments where audio alerts are inappropriate, like in meetings.

The purpose of any accessibility underline is to capacitate someone with a incapacity to extract in as many of a core knowledge as possible, that Apple has succeeded in doing with aplomb.

The disproportion this year is it seems Apple has put increasing importance on a cohesive, unchanging knowledge opposite a platforms.

One good instance is a new “Control other devices” choice in a Switch Control menu on iOS. It’s a underline whereby someone can control their Apple TV (which supports Switch Control, new to tvOS) with their iPhone, supposing both inclination are sealed into a same iCloud comment and on a same Wi-Fi network.

As we reported final year, Apple dedicates several sessions and labs to explain a new assistive technologies, advise best practices for thorough design, and assistance developers safeguard their apps are permitted to everyone.

That continued during Moscone this year, to be sure, though a vibe was different. Apple brought me behind to WWDC again this year, and it felt like they put even some-more concentration and appetite into creation accessibility a star captivate of a conference.

Standout Features

There are 3 new accessibility facilities we trust will have a many impact.

Wheelchair Fitness in watchOS 3. When Apple’s Director of Fitness Health Technologies, Jay Blahnik, suggested a wheelchair-focused underline of a Activity app, it was a pleasing surprise.

As we tweeted during a event, this underline strikes me as a many Apple-y thing Apple announced. That a association went to such lengths to investigate wheelchair fitness, rise algorithms for measuring movement, and exercise it into a watch is so quintessentially Apple.

It’s also a covenant to Apple’s earnest during improving a health tech, something that’s a cornerstone of not usually a Apple Watch though of a company’s ethos to emanate products that heighten people’s lives.

From an accessibility perspective, what creates “wheelchair mode” so notable is it opens adult a watch to some-more people. It creates Apple Watch a some-more different and thorough product (many wheelchair users might have formerly felt a watch had singular seductiveness in terms of aptness tracking). Now, they can advantage from a watch’s Activity app like anyone else.

Overall, “wheelchair mode” (and generally a “Time to roll!” notification) is an impossibly courteous serve to watchOS.

Magnifier. In iOS 10, there is a magnifier choice for iPhone and iPad. It uses a camera, along with filters and a LED peep for lighting, to increase objects.

I got a hands-on lecture of a magnifier by folks from Apple, and it’s a underline I’m many looking brazen to in iOS.

In so many situations — reading remedy labels or cost tags in a grocery store, for instance—I onslaught to review a information since a imitation is so small. we mostly use a flashlight on my phone to give me some-more light while reading, and a magnifier is going to be even some-more indispensable. And I’m certain I’m not a usually one with low prophesy who’ll get lots of unsentimental use from it.

Software TTY. In iOS 10, Apple has combined support for a program TTY underline so that someone who’s deaf can make and accept phone calls right from an iPhone. It obviates a need for a standalone teletypewriter device.

Transcripts are saved in a Phone app, and there’s even a special keyboard that includes keys for TTY-based practice such as “GA”, or “Go Ahead,” that prompts readers that it’s fine to reply.

This is a game-changer for a deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Aside from expelling a need for additional hardware, Software TTY gives a deaf village another constrained reason—the other being FaceTime—to buy an iPhone.

It creates a iPhone an even some-more viable communication apparatus for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. What’s more, it saves children of deaf adults (like me) from wanting a genuine TTY to speak to desired ones, since a iPhone does it.

Photo pleasantness of Apple.

Photo pleasantness of Apple.

The Apple Design Awards Reward Accessibility

WWDC 2016 noted a second true year Apple famous an app for not usually glorious design, though glorious accessible design.

Last year’s winner was Workflow. This year’s winner in that difficulty is djay Pro, from German growth studio Algoriddim.

What’s special about djay Pro is a app is entirely concordant with VoiceOver, notwithstanding a fact that a infancy of a app uses tradition user interface elements. This matters since apps that implement customary UIKit controls get full VoiceOver support “for free.” That a folks during Algoriddim built their tradition UI and did a work to safeguard labels and such are entirely permitted is awesome.

At a macro level, where Workflow’s VoiceOver support helps a blind and visually marred be some-more productive, djay Pro helps them be some-more creative. You need not demeanour any serve than this year’s ADA ceremony to see this in action, as a blind member of Apple’s Accessibility team, himself a DJ, demos djay Pro’s capabilities. (Skip to around a 5:00 mark.

There are other apps, of course, though Workflow and djay Pro infer that for an app to have good design, it needs to have good permitted pattern to boot. Design and accessibility are not jointly exclusive, so it’s good to see Apple pulling a thought in sessions and commend it with honors like a Design Awards.

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 during 9.10.52 PM

Swift Playgrounds Gives Accessibility New Meaning

The new Swift Playgrounds app for iPad deserves discuss here since we consider it best represents a epitome inlet of accessibility.

As Tim Cook pronounced on stage, a solitary purpose of Swift Playgrounds is to make coding permitted to everyone, quite school-age children. But it isn’t usually suitable for kids. Anyone, of any age, who has an seductiveness in program development can advantage from regulating Swift Playgrounds.

Swift Playgrounds is Apple’s try to move coding, during slightest on a simple level, to a masses. Cook also mentioned that program growth should be a core partial of schools’ curriculum, and a introduction of Swift Playgrounds is a pull to get some-more people meditative about program growth and mechanism science.

In this context, then, Swift Playgrounds is all about accessibility. It’s Apple’s approach of shepherding a subsequent era of developers by creation a fun, easy to use apparatus that creates training Swift easy and accessible.
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Accessibility Here, There, and Everywhere

As we wrote during a outset, a vibe around WWDC exuded many unrestrained for accessibility. From a sessions to deaf-blind accessibility inclusion disciple Haben Girma’s lunchtime presentation to an accessibility-centric celebration we attended mid-week, accessibility had a incomparable participation than ever this year. And that’s not counting iOS 10’s developed pattern language, that is firm to have ramifications for a visually impaired.

A large reason for a courtesy accessibility received, we think, is Apple’s ever-apparent expansion in Tim Cook’s image. Apple has been really socially unwavering underneath Cook’s care (cf. a impulse of overpower during a start of a keynote for a tragedy in Orlando, FL), and their concentration on accessibility during WWDC—and other occasions — are manifestations of that ideal.

In WWDC’s case, so many revolved around accessibility in 2016 that we can’t wait to see what Apple is formulation for 2017.