While other mobile platforms are making strides in accessibility, iOS has always been a clear leader. Given the buzz from this year’s annual developer conference, iOS 8 will deliver again. Some of the major accessibility features discussed were:
- Braille keyboard for direct 6-key braille input
- Alex voice for accessibility
- Multi-device support for Made for iPhone (MFi) hearing aids
- Improved zoom
- Touch ID to exit from Guided Access
- Grayscale option for the display
It is, of course, the details that make some of these features that much more impressive. For example, improved zoom has a very clever twist where everything but the keyboard zooms. This is very useful when entering information into those tiny web fields. Now users with vision impairments can zoom in on little labels and text fields and still be able to use the keyboard. Moreover, you can now choose to zoom in a moveable, resizable window as demonstrated in this video.
In the accessibility setting of iOS8 under Zoom users will now see a toggle for follow focus, Detach Zoom Controls, Leave Keyboard Unzoomed and options for Lens Mode, Lens Effects and Maximum Zoom Level.
The Grayscale option is another simple but brilliant addition. Similar to the Invert Colors option in iOS 7, the Grayscale feature turns everything to grayscale including your apps, games and multimedia, giving users who are color blind a superior experience.
Grayscale can be toggled on and off in the Accessibility setting.
Mobile Accessible Content
These new features in iOS 8 come at a time when the importance of mobile accessibility is peaking as more users with disabilities are accessing websites and applications through mobile.
Apple has done a good job developing the accessibility feature sets by thinking through how the features work. Gone are the days when an accessible feature meant you could do something like zoom, which literally means you can pinch-and-zoom and nothing else. As the capabilities of mobile devices are increasing and sensors are being utilized to deliver more customized experiences, accessibility features are being thought through and fleshed out like the more commonly marketed features, giving users with disabilities a much more pleasurable, convenient and personalized experience.
Now that the devices are providing good accessibility features to help end users, developers must ensure that the websites and applications work with these new features. The Mobile Accessibility Task Force (Mobile A11YTF), co-chaired by Interactive Accessibility’s Kathy Wahlbin, is currently working on specific WCAG 2.0 techniques for mobile web, responsive design, and native applications to provide help so that developers understand how to make mobile content accessible.
iOS Mobile Accessibility Resources
For more information on iOS accessibility go to: