World Accessibility Awareness Day came about by chance: a post was written by Los Angeles developer Joe Devon in November 2011, he continued by a lucky combination of a professional from Toronto, Jennison Asuncion, led to the idea of creating a “special” day to raise awareness on the issue of digital accessibility. Nearly one billion people around the world experience difficulties or limitations from birth or due to illness, accident or just aging. However, the use of digital technologies is not only convenient, but is becoming more and more necessary as work, social activities, leisure and administrative practices are digitized.
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Apple, which has always paid attention to users with disabilities (such as in this graduation talk given by Tim Cook at Gallaudet University, a major university for the deaf and visually impaired, in which his actors also participated Tailthe Oscar-winning film distributed by Apple), participates in the day by choosing it as a place where some of the news about its operating systems will be announced in the coming weeks and months (“until the end of the year There are three more significant innovations and a number of small adaptations to a family of operating systems (for Mac, iPhone and iPad, but also Apple Watch and Apple TV) that were originally designed with the idea of being as accessible as possible. as much as possible for people with reduced functionality.
The most interesting innovation for a large number of people is probably the “live” subtitles, which are automatically created thanks to the voice recognition systems that allow not only to “subtitle” any sound that passes through the computer (from a video conference on Facetime to a podcast in any other type of teleconferencing).
The subtitles, which are a kind of transcript of what is called automatic, appear above the video window and can be activated via an accessibility menu function of the device preferences (iPhone, iPad and Mac). The artificial intelligence transfer takes place locally on the device, so no data is shared with Apple and can also be done for example in zero-connection mode (podcast or video start). Apple has not said when it will release the feature, which will come later anyway this year.
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There are other companies that over the years have proposed such solutions (for example the American Ava) and which still offer even more structured services (for example, Apple said that it will not be possible to save a copy of video or audio, while other services allow it).
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Apple Watches have become the most popular smartwatch in the world and offer various possibilities not only thanks to the applications and the connection to the iPhone or directly to the telephone network and WiFi, but also thanks to the sensors that allow you to understand if they are moving. , exercise, heart rate and electrocardiogram. Some of these features require you to specifically use the smartwatch, but it has a limited size and screen and can be a problem for people with accessibility issues. For this reason, Apple has studied a system that connects the watch directly to the phone and displays the entire interface of the smartwatch on the screen of the latter. This makes it easier to use, given the iPhone’s larger screen size, and uses other accessibility software tools, such as voice commands on the interface, to handle various functions.
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Apple, which will also make this feature later this year, has also added other gesture-based commands that allow for a double-tap, a double-tap on the screen, taking a photo, pausing, or to restart a workout, answer the phone.
Apple has long been taking advantage of the capabilities of the iPhone for the visually impaired, visually impaired or blind using the camera and Siri as a digital eye to provide environmental information. Some features, such as the magnifying glass feature, allow you to frame and zoom in, for example, at a very high magnification so you can see small writings or object details.
With the advent of machine learning and artificial intelligence in the last three years, Apple has added smart features that allow the phone to act as a smart aid: the camera frames and provides audible signals for the presence of obstacles in the path or other indications. Apple has also made it possible to identify and indicate the presence of different types of obstacles: from an object to an individual and to indicate the relative distance (a feature that has been highly valued in times of pandemic for social distance in public).
Apple now adds a “door” feature that allows the phone to identify doors and gates, describe them (materials, color and shape) and read any signs and plates (from the name of a sign in a store to the presence of the locked toilet for the disabled who write on the door). The functionality will be integrated in a small revolution of this part of the iPhone functions, grouping in “Recognition” mode in “Magnifier” all the various possibilities that Apple has created recently. This will come by the end of the year.
Finally, Apple has made other accessibility features or improvements to those already present. From Assistant recognizing sounds (useful for signaling to a person with reduced or no hearing if the phone rings, the doorbell rings, the pressure cooker whistles, etc.) to improve text visualization in the Apple Books app in Siri calibration mode before answering a voice command to help those who speak more slowly or with difficulty, up to the ability to connect two video game controllers and in-game help to allow a person with reduced mobility or other reduced function to enjoy the game with the help of a friend or others.
Like other accessibility features, Buddy Controller is, according to Apple, a way to help as many people as possible exercise their right to use digital tools.