Apple’s New Accessibility Initiatives

Apple has announced that they are providing even more features for those with disabilities. There are a couple of things to highlight including SignTime, Assistive Touch, eye-tracking hardware support, support for bi-directional hearing aids, and improved voiceover support.

SignTime

SignTime is a new service, available starting today, May 20th, 2021 which will allow users to communicate with Apple Retail and Customer Care representatives through a Sign Language interpreter. This is accessible right from within the browser. If a customer is in an Apple Store and needs an interpreter, they will be able to use SignTime to communicate as necessary. There are three different languages available for users, American Sign Language (ASL) in the US, British Sign Language (BSL) in the UK, and French Sign Language (LSF) in France.

There is another new feature, for those with limited mobility called AssistiveTouch.

AssistiveTouch

AssistiveTouch is a feature for the Apple Watch that will detect subtle differences for the Apple Watch that will allow users to be able to interact with the Apple Watch. This is done by the Apple Watch detecting differences in muscle movements and tendon activity to be able to sense the intension. 

This will be a significant leap in terms of inclusivity for those who may have limb differences so that they can be able to use the Apple Watch, the same as anybody else.

Those who have limb differences are not the only ones seeing some improvement. 

Eye-Tracking Support for iPad

There are those who may have motor issues and these issues would still want to be able to control an iPad. Later this year the iPad will support hardware eye-tracking devices through the Made for iPad, or MFI, program.

With the Eye-Tracking support users will be able to move the point on the iPad, solely use the eye-tracking hardware. This, like AssistiveTouch, will allow users with limited mobility to use an iPad, just like other users.

Bi-Directional Hearing Aids

There are different types of people throughout the world. There are some users who may have difficulty hearing certain things. Apple has provided some features, like “Listening Mode”, which allows you to use your iPhone or iPad as a way to increase volume.

While this may work for some users, there are those users who need other types of auditory assistance. Those users may need hearing aids. Apple has updated their MFi program to support bi-directional hearing aids. According to Apple, “The microphones in these new hearing aids enable those who are deaf or hard of hearing to have hands-free phone and FaceTime conversations”.

This will be a great way of allowing those with hearing issues to have Hearing Aids that will allow them to natively use their phone hands-free and participate in FaceTime conversations. 

Exploring Images with VoiceOver

Over the last few years Apple has been improving their object detection through machine learning. While this has been great for object detection, facial recognition, and much more. One benefit that all of this work has is a new feature that Apple will be releasing is the ability to explore images with VoiceOver. 

For those who are visually impaired, you will be able to use VoiceOver to detect objects within an image. This goes beyond what users have experienced thus far by being able to describe details about people, like their position with a photo. Beyond this, for things like receipt VoiceOver will be able to go column by column, row by row. This includes being able to provide header information. 

Closing Thoughts

These new initiatives for Apple will be great additions to be more inclusive of additional people who may mobility, hearing, and movement issues. It is good to see Apple add this, but I hope that Apple adds more assistive technologies over time.

Source: Apple

Hopes for Improvements for Apple’s Platforms

There are some things that I would like to see changed with Apple’s platforms. These are mostly “paper cuts”, in that none of them show-stoppers in themselves but combined they make it a lot tougher to deal with the platforms. These are not my predictions for WWDC, those will be in a separate post.

Apple TV

  • A way to save specific screensavers while still downloading new ones.
  • Have the ability to have Siri limit to the media I already own.
  • Have Siri have the ability to add more categories. For example “Show me movies that are action comedies.”

macOS

  • Specifically for Catalyst, more refined controls for macOS Catalyst apps that match macOS even better.
  • Fix Bluetooth, for keyboard, mice, and trackpads. I have issues with bluetooth disconnecting randomly and in the middle of using it.
  • Within the Mail app, keep order of accounts. The order will randomly reset when showing the app window even if the mail app was not closed, but the window was.

iCloud

  • More default iCloud storage. 5GB really is paltry and just embarrassing at this point. I do not expect 100GB, but even 10GB or 25GB free would be better than the 5GB we get now.

iOS

  • Improvements to Mail, like actually indicating messages have been read.
  • Quick method to enable or disable “Block Unknown callers” from Control Center.
  • Set default for Noise Cancelling headphones other than “Active Noise Cancelling”.
  • I love that iOS 13.4 added keyboard and trackpad support for iOS, but system-wide support for navigating alerts with the keyboard would be very helpful.
  • Fix Bluetooth. Bluetooth is a mess on iOS, particularly for audio. For instance, my Beats Solo Pros will have distortion when using any other app, but not all the time. It is consistent enough to notice that it is a problem. For instance, if I am typing in messages while listening to something, the audio will stutter and its not the key taps making noise. The same goes for many other apps.
  • Within the Files app, provide option to always show file extensions. I say an option because some will not want it, but power users, like myself, can really need it.

iPadOS

  • True multiple user support, not limited to schools or businesses.
  • Have a calculator, specifically license PCalc, for use on the iPad.

Screen Time

  • Have actually accurate synchronization and reports. Here is a great example. April 12th, I got the following reports: iPhone: 15 hours, 59 minutes, iPadOS stated, up 51% for an average of 16 hours and 15 minutes per day, and macOS stated “You averaged 13 hours, 33 minutes of screen time per day last week.” So obviously something is amiss between the synchronization of the devices and the reported screen time. Synchronization should be forced before sending the notification.

watchOS

  • Qi Charging on the Apple Watch. Right now the Apple Watch uses proprietary charging, but having standard charging would be nice.

Wallet

  • We need a website with the ability to see all transactions, make payments, etc.
  • Additional user on the same card including adding children, and even possibly giving them a budget.

Notes

  • Add the ability to not have urls automatically be created for links, preferably on a note-by-note basis.

Numbers

  • Copy a table as HTML, even without any formatting, with the header rows as thead rows.

Pages

  • Have it remember your place when you switch between Pages and another app, when using it on iOS.
  • Provide ability to edit styles when a file is in a shared folder on iCloud. Currently, you cannot edit any styles if the file is in a folder that is shared on iCloud. You can select them, but not edit

iTunes Connect

  • Create an API, similar to the App Store Connect API, for users to be able to manage their iTunes Connect items in a similar manner as App Store Connect. This would be a tremendous improvement.

These are just some of the things that I have managed to come across that would be helpful for improving the functioning of Apple’s platforms. Some of these are easier to accomplish than others, and some are just bugs that should have already been fixed, but for some reason are still present within Apple’s software.

Apple to Require Two Factor Authentication for Developers

Two Factor authentication on a Mac and verification on an iPhone

Today Apple sent out an email to developers about the security of their accounts. The emails states:

In an effort to keep your account more secure, two-factor authentication will be required to sign in to your Apple Developer account and Certificates, Identifiers & Profiles starting February 27, 2019. This extra layer of security for your Apple ID helps ensure that you’re the only person who can access your account. If you haven’t already enabled two-factor authentication for your Apple ID, please learn more and update your security settings. If you have any questions, contact us. Best regards, Apple Developer Relations

There are a few possible reasons for this. The first is, as the email states, to help secure developer accounts. By enabling the two-factor authentication, particularly for Certificates, Identifiers, and Profiles cannot be added by unauthorized users.

This will have some downsides though. By requiring two-factor authentication, only ten devices will be able to receive the two factor authentication codes. For most individual users, this will not be a problem. Five of these trusted devices can be Macs and five of these can be iOS devices.

I contacted Apple Support to verify the number, and it is indeed ten trusted devices that can be associated with an Apple ID.

For larger development groups who may need to allow more than one user to login to the Certificates, you will likely need add a user who has access to the Developer Resources.

If you have not already enabled two-factor authentication on your Apple Developer account, you will want to review the two-factor authentication support page to be sure that you have a way to recover your account, if needed.

watchOS 5.1.2 and the ECG App Released

Today Apple released watchOS 5.1.2. watchOS 5.1.2 contains a few bug fixes as well as some features. Some of the fixes and other changes include:
  • Enables direct access to supported movie tickets, coupons, and rewards cards in Wallet when tapped to a contactless reader
  • Receive notifications and animated celebrations when you achieve daily maximum points in a day during an Activity competition
  • New Infograph complications for Mail, Maps, Messages, Find My Friends, Home, News, Phone, Remote
  • Manage your availability for Walkie-Talkie from Control Center
Each of these updates are nice improvements. The biggest change with watchOS 5.1.2 is the inclusion of a feature that was announced at Apple’s September event. At the event Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 4, and they pre-announced the electrocardiogram, or ECG, app. The app is capable of the following:
  • Allows you to take an electrocardiogram similar to a single-lead electrocardiogram
  • Can indicate whether your heart rhythm shows signs of atrial fibrillation—a serious form of irregular heart rhythm—or sinus rhythm, which means your heart is beating in a normal pattern
  • Saves ECG waveform, classification and any noted symptoms in a PDF on the Health app on iPhone to share with your doctor
  • Adds the ability to receive an alert if an irregular heart rhythm that appears to be atrial fibrillation is detected (US and US territories only)

In order to use the ECG app, you must be running both iOS 12.1.1 and watchOS 5.1.2. This cannot be the beta version, but the release version. iOS 12.1.1 and watchOS 5.1.2 are available now.

iOS 12.1 Public and Developer beta includes new Emoji

There are many different ways to communicate. The most recent is through the use of Emoji. Each year new emoji are released and this year is no different. This year’s release of iOS 12.1 will have over 70 new emoji characters. In the latest public and developer betas have the new emoji included in the release.

With the release of iOS 12.1, you will see a variety of new emoji. Some of these include

  • Cupcake
  • Leafy Green
  • Mango
  • Moon Cake

There are also some new faces as well. Some of the new faces include:

  • Freezing Face
  • Face with pleading eyes
  • Face with Party Hat and Horn

Along with faces and the food, there are some new animals too.

  • Llama
  • Mosquito
  • Raccoon
  • Swan

Here are some of the soon to be released emoji.