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Big Wins For Accessibility In iOS 13 (and macOS Catalina)

After attending Apple’s WorldWide Developer Conference this year and having a little bit of time to process the sessions, it became clear that accessibility is a big focal point for iOS going forward. 

Luke Pearce presents a week of highlights from WWDC 2019, including details about accessibility improvements.

Apple is striving to make its ecosystem more seamless and interconnected than ever before. This means that accessibility updates to macOS - the primary operating system for the Mac family of computers - could potentially impact iOS users too. 

With this in mind, here’s some of the biggest accessibility highlights and announcements from WWDC 2019, as well as some general tips and tricks to make your apps more inclusive to all Apple users.

iOS 13 Accessibility Updates

Apple has made accessibility a priority in iOS 13, with several updates and improvements that are bound to enhance user experience for everybody.

All of Apple’s accessibility features and functionality.

All of Apple’s accessibility features and functionality.

1. Top Level Accessibility Shortcut

Apple has made it incredibly easy to personalise your device by bumping up the ‘Accessibility’ menu to the top level of Settings. This means you no longer need to go to Settings > General > Accessibility. It’s great to see Apple putting a primary focus on these features, making them even easier to discover for new users.

2. Full Keyboard Access

With iOS 13 comes the ability to use an external keyboard to control your iOS device. Not only is this a massive win for users, it also unlocks even more functionality and accessibility features that were previously limited to hardware keyboards such as Key Repeat, Sticky Keys and Slow Keys.

3. Dark Mode

Supported system-wide and exposed for developers to start implementing, Dark Mode is coming to iOS 13. Apps like Messages and Calendar will become more user-friendly for many people thanks to the strong contrast of light text on a dark background. It’s also important to note that Dark Mode doesn’t just invert the colours; it will dynamically adjust according to the display mode and support image assets too. 

Accessibility Improvements for Both iOS 13 and macOS Catalina

1. Voice Control

Voice Control was undoubtedly the biggest accessibility announcement at WWDC. Put simply, it allows a user to control their iPhone or Mac using just their voice.

This feature isn’t just a case of dictation either; it literally has the ability to do ANYTHING through the power of speech. Check it out:

Voice Control gives your voice the power to navigate, dictate, and work your devices in a new way.

Additional functionality of voice control includes:

  • Customised words - For technical topics or emails that only your close friends would understand.

  • Rich text editing - For example, you could say "Replace I’m almost there with I just arrived."

  • Comprehensive navigation - You can rely entirely on your voice to navigate an app.

  • Touch gestures - Perform gestures such as tap, pinch, swipe or zoom and record commonly-used custom multi-step gestures.

  • Privacy - Everything happens on your iPhone or Mac to ensure personal data is kept private and safe.

2. SwiftUI

SwiftUI brings a new way for developers to create user interfaces for their applications on iOS 13 and macOS Catalina. Ultimately, applications across all Apple devices will now have much more accurate accessibility labels and up-to-date descriptions, as SwiftUI takes over this responsibility from the developer. 

For example, if a Toggle is turned on or off, this value gets instantly shared to whoever is listening to it. Previously, the developer would need to implement a notification to listen to the Toggle change and update accessibility labels as required.

In conclusion

Apple’s accessibility improvements do a great job at matching the technology to the platform, enabling whole new ways of interacting with iPhones and Macs. 

These features could truly redefine what’s possible in terms of accessibility and personalisation, ushering in a new era of usability for Apple products, which other technology giants should look to replicate.

Luke PearceComment