Apple Previews New Accessibility Features Set to Come Later this Year in iOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

At its annual Worldwide Developer's Conference this week, Apple previewed some of the new accessibility features coming to its iOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS platforms later this year. At this point, it's worth noting that this software is still in beta form, and not all features--particularly, the specifics of how they will be implemented--are finalized. With that said, below is what Apple has announced will be coming for users of accessibility features:

iOS 10

  • VoiceOver will include a pronunciation editor, allowing users to customize how the speech synthesizer says particular words.
  • VoiceOver will gain the option to send audio to multiple sources. This will allow users to have VoiceOver playing through one audio source while sending music to another.
  • A new Magnifier feature will allow one to magnify objects using the camera on your iPhone or iPad. One can use the device's flash to provide additional light, and color filter to assist in differentiation.
  • A number of new color filters will be available to assist users with color blindness and other vision challenges.
  • Speak Screen and Speak Selection will gain the ability to highlight sentences along with words. Additionally, users will have the option of having letters on the keyboard and predictive typing selections spoken aloud.
  • Users of Switch Control will be able to control other connected devices from an iPhone or iPad. Among other possibilities, this could let a person using Switch Control control an Apple TV from their iPhone.
  • Software TTY will allow users who are deaf or hard of hearing to place and receive TTY calls without the need for traditional hardware teletypewriter accessories.

watchOS 3

  • Taptic Time will allow VoiceOver users to tell the time entirely by haptic feedback. Available options include Digits, Terse, and Morse Code.
  • The Xtra Large Watch Face will gain new complications, allowing users to customize which feature they want to be prominent on the screen.
  • The Activity and Workout apps will be optimized for wheelchair users. "Time to Stand" becomes "Time to Roll"; wheelchair pushes contribute to all-day calorie goals; and there will be dedicated wheelchair-specific workouts available.

tvOS 10

  • For VoiceOver users, High Quality voices; a pronunciation editor; and support for audio routing will be available.
  • A number of new color filters will be available to assist users with color blindness and other vision challenges.
  • Apple TV will gain Switch Control support for users with physical motor limitations. This includes the ability to control other connected Apple devices from an Apple TV.

macOS Sierra

  • Apple's Accessibility Team has placed significant emphasis on improving the user experience for VoiceOver users in macOS Sierra.
  • While not specifically an accessibility feature, Siri will be coming to the Mac--and may be of particular interest and added value to some users with disabilities. Siri capabilities include sending messages; creating reminders; web searches; location look-up, and more. Siri is also able to assist a user in finding files and getting information about your Mac.
  • New to Switch Control is Dwell support--a feature for users who are able to move the mouse through solutions such as head- or eye-tracking hardware, but who have difficulty clicking or dragging objects.
  • Switch Control users will also be able to control other connected Apple devices through their Macs.

Looking Ahead

It is expected that iOS 10, watchOS 3, tvOS 10, and macOS Sierra will be released to the public in the fall. During the WWDC keynote, Apple announced that iOS 10 and macOS Sierra will enter public beta in July; if you are able and have the inclination, it would be wonderful if as many VoiceOver users as possible were able to test the betas and provide feedback to Apple. More information about Apple's Public Beta Program, including a link to sign up, is available at http://beta.apple.com.

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Comments

Submitted by Toonhead on Thursday, June 16, 2016

Yay for the pronunciation editor! This is something I've been waiting for since the very first day I started using iOS back in 2012. Also, the ability to send audio through multiple sources is a welcome addition. Now I really am excited about iOS 10.

Submitted by tunmi13 on Thursday, June 16, 2016

I agree Toonhead. Now I can make VO pronounce my name right, not as Tunmi but as Toomi. T u n m i is how you spell my name, but it is pronounced as T o o m i.

Submitted by ming on Friday, June 17, 2016

hey! I'm looking forward to it!
although my IPhone 5s is about to retired...
but, I will get the IPhone 7. and I think it will have some new features in it!

Submitted by Brian Giles on Friday, June 17, 2016

This makes me want to play with the public betas when they drop, but I only have one device. I've been waiting for separate VO audio on iOS for a long time. It'll make using a bluetooth speaker a lot easier. I'm hoping that that we'll finally get a way to easily spell check on iOS. Then I could go all iOS at least for personal computer use.

Submitted by Bingo Little on Friday, June 17, 2016

Did I read this right? if so then Huzza (pronounced hazarre) this is fantastic! I might get an Apple Watch after all! As for the pronunciation editor I welcome that too, as no doubt any student or alumnus at Magdalen College Oxford (which is actually Maudlin College Oxford) will be. That's a point actually: will it have the capability to differentiate between Magdalen College, and Mary Magdalaen? I did work out how to teach the BrailleNote Keynote Gold synthesiser the difference, so I hope Voiceover will be able similarly to be trained. not that I read or write about either Mary Magdalen or magdalen College that much, but it would be nice.

Submitted by Bingo Little on Friday, June 17, 2016

Apologies to any Cambridge alumni of Magdalen College Cambridge who might be reading this. In true Oxonian style, i forgot you, but it is clear that Voiceover's pronunciation editor will not.

Submitted by jcdjmac (not verified) on Friday, June 17, 2016

Looking forward to it! hopefully this release will not have any additional bugs. I'm tired of all of the bugs and crashes. when I beta tested iOS 9 last year, I had some problems. that's why I'm sticking to the current release and wait until the release comes out this September.

Submitted by sockhopsinger on Friday, June 17, 2016

The only thing I really wish is for the OS for the AppleTV to have a Voiceover volume control. High quality voices are nice, but so often the volume of the voices will completely overshadow other content.

Submitted by Dave82 on Friday, June 17, 2016

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Some absolutely great stuff here. One question, is the pronunciation editor coming to Mac OS as well? It's not mentioned above.

Submitted by Tyler on Friday, June 17, 2016

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

I believe the Mac already has a pronunciation editor in Voiceover utility in the speech category.

Submitted by Dave82 on Friday, June 17, 2016

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Really? How did I not know that?!!! Will take a look.
I'd imagine the Taptic time will work better as there will be a better way to activate it. Through no fault of their own, the Timebuzz developers had to use work-arounds that aren't great really

Submitted by Chris on Saturday, June 18, 2016

Mac OS X has had a pronunciation dictionary since Tiger or Leopard. I don't know why it took them 7 years to add it to iOS. It should have been present in iOS 3 or 4. Anyway, this stuff sounds great!

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Saturday, June 18, 2016

Looking for September for new iOS. looks good. Hope those who are testing beta in July, test Bluetooth connection, clock when press power button. If all recall iOS 8 and beginning of 9 whenever we press power button to hear the time, it did not work. Hope new will not damage it since it is working now.

Submitted by Ekaj on Saturday, June 18, 2016

This is exciting. Like I mentioned in a previous topic, I'm looking forward to trying out Siri for the first time. Regarding the pronunciation dictionary, perhaps the current one will be enhanced a bit? In any case I can't wait for all this. I received the external drive that I ordered earlier this week, and somebody is coming over to help set it up and configure it on Monday.

Submitted by kevinchao89 on Saturday, June 18, 2016

FIrst post has following under macOS SIerra:
"Apple's Accessibility Team has placed significant emphasis on improving the user experience for VoiceOver users in macOS Sierra."
1. What does this mean exactly?
2. Are there detailed specifics or change log?
3. To me, it VoiceOver in Sierra feels the same as El Capitan.

Submitted by kevinchao89 on Saturday, June 18, 2016

I've tried macOS Sierra and iOS 10 developer previews, but haven't been brave enough to try watchOS.
Curious to know who has tried watchOS 3 and how the performance-boost and quick-actions work with VoiceOver?

Submitted by kevinchao89 on Saturday, June 18, 2016

1. Photos: In addition to the face attributes and light conditions we've come to enjoy and appreciate; the on-device image recognition provides object and scene info as photo descriptions for VoiceOver--AKA: FaceBook auto alt text.
2. Home screen custom actions: Rearranging apps and creating folders has had varying degrees of usability and efficiency with VoiceOver; iOS 10 adds dynamic custom actions for rearranging apps with 3 options (create folder, move before or after focused app)--AKA, Android Google Now Launcher with TalkBack.

Submitted by Greg Wocher on Sunday, June 19, 2016

Hello,
I did not see any mention of braille improvements. Has anyone seen any braille improvements or has it been forgotten about?

Regards,
Greg Wocher

Submitted by kevinchao89 on Monday, June 20, 2016

It's great to see this policy change re: posting about beta APple software.
I keep on looking through forums on AppleVis.com to see if there are others who have found cool VoiceOver features/improvements.
I've contributed my VoiceOver observations for macOS Sierra, iOS 10, and Swift Playgrounds.
Looking forward to discussions and community collaboration on VoiceOver beta Apple software.

Submitted by Jake on Monday, June 20, 2016

In reply to by Greg Wocher

I didn't see any mention of Braille fixes, though that said I don't find much wrong with Braille in iOS at the moment. The only thing I'd wish for is a much faster activation of the Braille display when we wake our devices up. I'd like that to be absolutely reliable and darn near instant, as Bluetooth keyboards and headsets already are.
Braille on the Mac now... that's a whole new can of worms and there are sure a lot of bugs there. If there's any Braille support that Apple need to concentrate on fixing, it should be this. Braille support is one thing iOS gets right that OS X does not.

Submitted by Jake on Monday, June 20, 2016

In reply to by sockhopsinger

Speaking for myself, I'd like to be able to interact with VoiceOver on an Apple TV via Braille. Then the volume of the voice wouldn't bother anyone, and my Smart Beetle would just end up being my all-purpose silent interaction remote.

Submitted by Maria Reyes on Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Finally for the pronunciation editor. I finally can teach VoiceOver how to say my email

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Wednesday, June 29, 2016

I'd be interested to know how this works, is it simply to a bluetooth device like a headset or can it go to ones phone? Also, will it reroute audio description as the same feed?

Submitted by Devin Prater on Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Club AppleVis Member

iOS10 will have the Fred voice, pronunciation editor, home screen rearrangement awesomeness, and app developers can add rotor items to their apps, so a word processor could have a rotor item for spell checking and stuff like that. I wish Apple would have added the spell checking system wide, but you know, it’s Apple. The Mac is still the word processing choice for me. I’ll probably beta test Sierra when the public beta comes out this July, and will report here if anything is new. One thing I do know so far is that new Vocalizer voices, like Zoey and malcolm, will be available.

Submitted by tunmi13 on Wednesday, June 29, 2016

For those who would like to listen to WWDC 2016, open Podcasts. Go to the Search tab and type in "Apple Keynotes." Then open the WWDC 2016 option and subscribe to Apple Keynotes. It has all the WWDC's including other stuff.
Note that the latest episode will be downloaded to your device, and will take up a lot of space. Try to avoid downloading the episodes unlessyou have a lot of room.

Submitted by Parham Doustdar on Tuesday, August 2, 2016

What does this statement mean?

Apple's Accessibility Team has placed significant emphasis on improving the user experience for VoiceOver users in macOS Sierra.

Can you explain further?

Submitted by Jim D on Tuesday, August 2, 2016

All:

I have recently installed iOS 10 Beta 2 on an iPhone 6. I have found several odd issues and have reported some of them to Apple as bugs. For other issues, I am wondering if other VoiceOver users have had similar experiences. As these are public betas, I am assuming it is ok to post about them to this forum, but want to ensure this is indeed the case prior to posting any specifics. Can someone provide some specifics of this policy change?
Thanks.
Jim

Jim,

Thank you for asking for clarification before posting.

Our complete posting guidelines regarding beta Apple software can be found here: www.applevis.com/help/posting-content-applevis-website/can-i-post-information-or-ask-questions-about-beta-or-preview

As you will see, the following types of post are not permitted:

  1. Anything which could be considered as technical support with beta software. For example, seeking help with installing/using beta software or problems with native or third-party apps after installing a beta.
  2. Discussion of bugs introduced or fixed in a beta release.
  3. Detailed descriptions, reviews or walk-throughs of how new or changed features are implemented in a beta release.

This is what Apple has said VoiceOver users should expect from macOS Sierra.

We have no specifics beyond this, but take it to read that the focus is likely to be improvements to what is already present rather than new features. Hopefully this will translate into fixing some long-standing bugs and general improvements to operation right across the OS.

Submitted by JeffB on Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I really hope they fix the bug in contacts for when you go down the table index and you pick f and you are at d. It has a lot of inconsistencies and it either over or under shoots the letter you want.

Submitted by kevinchao89 on Sunday, August 14, 2016

I'm surprised to not have seen more discussion around tvOS 10 Beta, specifically:

1. loading spinners/progress bars are not spoken by VoiceOver (also happened in 9), so VO-user is left silence or ding sound. It would have been great if the tick-tock (from Mac) progress bar tone was provided or option to speak progress. THis is useful when opening apps, performing software update, resuming/playing video, etc.
2. In addition to Fred coming to iOS 10, it's also available for tvOS 10 Beta, which also happens to include non-Samantha voices (e.g. Alex, Karen, etc.) It's much nicer having Auzi accent voice on tvOS 10!
3. Audio-ducking, so VoiceoVer volume drops when Siri tone or audio starts; matches Mac and iOS, which is great, so TTS doesn't over-power video/audio.
4. Speech rate is a percentage slider, which matches it on watchOS, iOS, and macOS--no more slower/slow/normal/fast/faster. THis is great for consistency and UX.
5. Many more settings in Accessibility and Voiceover, which matches that on the other appleOS a11y/VO, so it's great that tvOS is becoming more flexible.

Submitted by Emily on Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Will there be any Scottish voice is available for iOS 10? I know there are Australian, UK, US and Irish, but will there b Scottish?

Hi Emily. I really hope so. I live in Oban, Scotland and I really dislike the uk Daniel voice. I use the Scottish fiona voice on my Macbook pro and have the Irish one on my iPhone and the Australian one on my apple tv. I'm guessing we won't as apple probably think they have us covered with the uk voice which is an English accent but I really hope they prove me wrong. We'll find out later today :) k

There's no bug in contacts. Simply, what happens is let's say you go down to F in the table index. F starts near the top center of the screen once you do (you need to touch, not flick). However, if you have one or two D contacts, or not enough F's or E's, they get merged on to that screen (visually, not just with VO). So, VO is doing exactly what it's supposed to in showing you what is there. You could say that the design of the app itself should perhaps be a little different, and always put the letter you swipe to at the top of the screen. Truthfully, I think that'd make more sense myself. However, calling it a bug isn't accurate as it is, in fact, behaving as it is designed to do.

Submitted by Fatima.Hamoud10 on Friday, September 9, 2016

In reply to by Jake

If Apple is going to release taptic time for watchOS 3, maybe they can release something like that in iOS 10? I am sure that in iOS 10 Apple would allow all iPhones to vibrate the time using vibrations of the iPhone. Maybe that feature will come in a later update.

Submitted by Ekaj on Friday, September 9, 2016

I'm also wondering if this feature will eventually make its debut on the Mac. I've never gotten to experience this feature before other than perhaps in a Braille watch I had years ago, and I think it would be pretty cool.

I'd guess it'll work the same as always. You still press on the home button and it will vibrate to let you know you did it, so why not just press it 3 times like we always do? It's still going to be indented slightly for Touch ID, so you'll be able to feel it.

I don't see how you could adapt this feature to the Mac. It's not as though the Mac has a vibration motor quite as sophisticated as the iPhone and Apple Watch have. The newer Macs do have a force touch trackpad yes, but its control seems quite limited and you'd have to have your hand on the trackpad to even feel it.

Submitted by Lielle ben simon on Saturday, September 10, 2016

Club AppleVis Member

From what i know, the button of iPhone 7 will be clickable but not realy pressed. It's prevent from users to less problems. It's realy cool that have 3d touch on the home button.

Submitted by TJT 2001 on Saturday, September 10, 2016

No, there is no Scottish voice in iOS 10. However, there are many new United Kingdom voices.

Submitted by jcdjmac (not verified) on Sunday, September 11, 2016

Yes, you herd correct. Minni and Micky Mouse is coming to the watch! When I was a kid, I used to enjoy listening to the characters. I even had a Micky Mouse telephone that talks. but now, I will have the characters on the watch face speaking the time. I herd a preview from David Woodbrige. and in the previous version of WatchOS 2, the voice of the time through the Micky Mouse face was reported by voiceover. now in WatchOS 3, the voices of the actual characters will report the time. also, their is a feature called auto speak. this means when it is activated, when you rays the watch, it will automatically speak. However, I will not use that feature, but I will enjoy using the new Micky/minni Mouse faces speaking the time.