Apple Highlights Global Accessibility Awareness Day With Front-Page Feature

Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, an event that promotes inclusion and access to technology for anyone with a disability. As it has over the past few years, Apple is marking the day by updating Apple.com in a few regions around the world with a message promoting accessibility: "Technology is most powerful when it empowers everyone."


On the Apple.com front page in the United Kingdom, visitors are encouraged to explore more accessibility features, which is linked to Apple's existing accessibility page. The page doesn't appear to have been updated yet this year; it highlights areas where Apple helps users with disabilities related to vision, hearing, physical and motor skills, learning, and literacy. The front page updates haven't appeared yet in the United States and other regions, but they will likely be refreshed as the day progresses.

On the accessibility page, Apple highlights its short commercial from 2016 about real people with disabilities who use its products in everyday life, narrated by Sady Paulson, who uses Switch Control on a Mac. Otherwise the page showcases Apple accessibility features like VoiceOver, Live Listen, Switch Control, and more, with the help of products including the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and HomePod.

In years past, Apple celebrated Global Accessibility Awareness Day with a series of "Designed for" videos that highlighted interviews conducted between CEO Tim Cook and three accessibility activists. Apple has also previously held a Stevie Wonder concert at One Infinite Loop and hosted global events promoting inclusive design at Apple corporate offices in Cupertino, Austin, Cork, and London. The company also usually holds accessibility-related Today at Apple sessions at its retail stores.


This article, "Apple Highlights Global Accessibility Awareness Day With Front-Page Feature" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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How to Make Your iPhone Display Dimmer Than Standard Brightness Controls Allow

If the screen of your iPhone or iPad is too bright for comfort, the usual solution is to go to Settings -> Display & Brightness and drag the Brightness slider to the left, or open Control Center and adjust the corresponding setting from there.


However, if the lowest setting offered by the Brightness level just isn't dim enough for you, there are a couple of ways to make your screen even darker. One method we've covered previously is to adjust white point using the Accessibility Shortcut. Another way is to enable a low light filter, which you can do by following the steps below.

  1. Launch the Settings app on your iOS device.

  2. Tap General.

  3. Tap Accessibility.

  4. Tap Zoom.

  5. Tap Zoom Region.

  6. Select Full Screen Zoom and return to the main Zoom menu.

  7. Tap Zoom Filter.

  8. Select Low Light and return to the main Zoom menu.

  9. Now, turn on Zoom by toggling the switch at the top of the Zoom menu.

  10. Double-tap the screen with three fingers to zoom out to fullscreen.

Your device's display brightness should now be extra dim. Note that you can disable the low light filter at any time: Simply triple-tap the screen with three fingers, tap Choose Filter from the overlay panel and then select None.


This article, "How to Make Your iPhone Display Dimmer Than Standard Brightness Controls Allow" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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How to Create a Virtual Home Button in iOS Using Assistive Touch

After testing some apps on an old iPhone 6s recently, I started to notice the device's Home button was becoming less and less responsive to finger presses, especially when it came to double-clicking it. Sure enough, after a few more days' use, the Home button stopped working completely.

In memory of the Home button

Now, ordinarily this would have left me in the unenviable position of having to power off my iPhone and turn it on again whenever I wanted to exit out of a launched app, until I relinquished the device and sent it away for a costly repair.

Fortunately, however, the event jogged my memory of a friend who was able to continue using their iPhone even after a drop had left its Home button dangling by a wire (by some miracle, Touch ID still worked). They had set up iOS's Assistive Touch feature as a virtual Home button while they waited until they could afford a replacement.

If your iPhone's Home button is dead or dying and you want to take similar action, or if you just fancy reminding yourself what using a Home button was like before Apple removed them from its latest iPhones, here's how to set up Assistive Touch to mimic a virtual one.

Note that if your Home button is already broken and your iPhone is stuck in a launched app, simply power off the device and turn it on again to boot back into the Home screen and follow these steps.

  1. Launch the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Tap General.

  3. Tap Accessibility.

  4. Scroll down and tap AssistiveTouch.

  5. Slide the AssistiveTouch toggle to the green position to turn it on.

  6. Next, under Custom Actions, select Single-Tap.

  7. In the next screen, tap Home to check it in the list.
With the AssistiveTouch virtual button enabled, simply touch it and it will behave just like a physical Home button.


Note that you can drag it around the screen to another location, and it will remain there until you move it again. You can also access it in running apps, as well as the Control Center.


This article, "How to Create a Virtual Home Button in iOS Using Assistive Touch" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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How to Use the Magnifier Feature on iPhone and iPad

Apple includes an accessibility feature in iOS that's useful if you have a visual impairment, but can even come in handy if your eyes are simply tired or you're struggling to read something like small print, especially in poor light.


It's called the Magnifier, and has several advantages over just opening up the camera app and zooming in to get a better look at something.

Enabling it is easy: Launch the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad, navigate to General -> Accessibility -> Magnifier, and toggle on the Magnifier switch.


After that, all you need to do to use it is triple-click the Side button (or Home button, depending on your device). You can also add it to the Control Center by going to Settings -> Control Center -> Customize Controls, and tapping the green plus button next to Magnifier.

When you launch Magnifier, you'll see a camera-like interface at the bottom of the screen, but with some unique features. The slider controls the magnification of the scene in the lens frame, while the button at the bottom left turns on the flashlight so you can illuminate it. The padlock button next to that locks the focus.


Tapping the big button in the center freezes the image (a frozen image is indicated by a yellow ring around the button), allowing you to move your phone around freely and still look at the image. You can also use the magnification slider to zoom in and out of the frozen image.

Note that when you freeze an image in the Magnifier, it isn't saved to your photo album. But if you want to save the entire image, you can.

Simply tap and hold on the frozen picture and select Save Image from the contextual popup menu. You'll find a Share option in there, too.


Over on the far right of the Magnifier interface is a button made up of three circles that provides access to additional sliders for adjusting brightness and contrast.

If you suffer from color blindness or another visual impairment, you can swipe through several color schemes in this extended menu and even invert the colors to find which combination works for you.


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Apple Highlights How iPhone Allows Blind Veteran and Surfboarder Scott Leason to Live Independently

Apple today shared a story about how the iPhone's accessibility features enable blind veteran and surfboarder Scott Leason to live independently.

Scott Leason surfboards at Mission Beach

A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Leason was blinded in 1993 after seven years of service. After years of adapting to his new normal, he received an iPhone 5 in 2012, along with training from Sarah T. Majidzadeh, assistant chief of blind rehabilitation at the Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center in Long Beach, California.

Leason is one of many individuals who are blind or have low vision who rely on the iPhone's built-in VoiceOver screen-reading software for daily tasks.

"It's a lot easier to navigate with the phone," Leason told Apple for its story. "I think a lot of the visually impaired prefer the iPhone because they can do everything on it. And VoiceOver works pretty darn good."

VoiceOver is a gesture-based reader introduced on iPhone in 2009, which made it the world's first fully accessible smartphone user interface for the blind, according to Apple. 76 percent of blind and low-vision people using a mobile screen-reading platform choose VoiceOver, per a December 2017 survey by WebAIM.

Scott Leason uses his iPhone XR to prepare for a surf

A competitive surfboarder, Leason has since upgraded to an iPhone XR, which he uses to review the day's surf reports via the Surfline app to prepare for the day's ride, typically at Mission Beach in San Diego. He also wears an Apple Watch Series 4 to track his surfing workouts in the water and at home.

"It's amazing how long ago 10 years feels in the world of technology," said Kevin Waldick, assistant director at the Mission Bay Aquatics Center. "He was not very technologically savvy at all, but when he got his iPhone he was like 'I can just do it. This is amazing.' And so Apple does a really amazing job of making that accessible."

Scott Leason starts a surfing workout on Apple Watch Series 4

Leason was the first blind champion at the USA Adaptive Surfing Championships at Oceanside Harbor North Jetty in June 2016. The same year, he won second place in men's tricks at the USA Water Ski competition in Harmony, North Carolina. In 2018, he competed in seven competitions in four different sports.

"I'm independent," Leason concluded. "That's the best way to describe the iPhone: independence."


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Google Adds Morse Code Accessibility Feature to Gboard on iOS

Google has added support for Morse code typing to its Gboard app for iOS, providing an accessible method of digital communication for people with disabilities.

The customizable feature replaces the letters of the keyboard with large dot and dash keys to enter text, and offers text-to-Morse sequences to the auto-suggestion strip above the keyboard.


Google has also launched a Morse Typing Trainer web game that teachers users how to communicate in Morse code using Gboard.

Tania Finlayson, an assistive tech developer with cerebral palsy who works on the Gboard project, explained in a Google blog post how Morse code has helped her communicate more effectively:
"At first I thought learning Morse code would be a waste of time, but soon learned that it gave me total freedom with my words, and for the first time, I could talk with ease, without breaking my neck. School became fun, instead of exhausting. I could focus on my studies, and have real conversations with my friends for the first time. Also, I did not need an adult figure with me every moment at school, and that was awesome."
For existing Gboard users, the Morse code feature is delivered in an update (version 1.29). Gboard is a free download for iPhone available on the App Store. [Direct Link]


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Live Listen Coming to AirPods in iOS 12

Apple in 2014 introduced a Live Listen feature that's designed to allow the iPhone to pair with hearing aids and then serve as a remote microphone that beams the audio the iPhone picks up to the hearing aids.

As noted by TechCrunch, Live Listen is coming to the AirPods with the iOS 12 update, letting iPhone users position their iPhones as a directional mic and have the audio relayed through the AirPods.


With this feature, an iPhone user could, for example, put an iPhone on the table in a noisy restaurant and then have the voice of whomever is speaking routed to the AirPods as a stand-in for hearing aids for those who are hard of hearing or need a bit of extra help separating voices in a loud environment.

Live Listen with AirPods is not going to replace a traditional hearing aid and people with hearing issues should still get a checkup from a doctor, but this feature is handy for people who need something in a pinch without carrying extra hardware.

Related Roundup: iOS 12

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Apple Backs New USB Standard for Using Braille Displays Across Ecosystems

Apple has voiced support for a new Human Interface Device standard that will bring versatile support and overall improve the technology of future USB-connected Braille displays [PDF].


Set forth by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), a non-profit organization for the advancement and adoption of USB technology, the new standard will help make it easier for blind and low-vision users to use Braille displays "across operating systems" and with "different types of hardware." This way, users won't be locked into one ecosystem and can more easily go about reading and interacting with their devices no matter the manufacturer.

Additionally, the standard is set to simplify the development process by removing the need for Braille devices to have custom software and drivers created for a particular operating system or screen reader. According to Apple's director of global accessibility policy and initiatives, Sarah Herrlinger, the company is "proud" to help advance the new USB-IF standard.
“Technology should be accessible to everyone and Apple designs all products with that in mind,” said Sarah Herrlinger, director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives at Apple. “We’re proud to advance this new USB-IF standard because we believe in improving the experience for all people who rely on braille displays to use their Apple products or any other device.”
A few other executives from other companies chimed in on the news as well, including Microsoft accessibility program manager Jeff Petty, who said, "Developing a HID standard for braille displays is one example of how we can work together, across the industry, to advance technology in a way that benefits society and ultimately improve the unemployment rate for people with disabilities."

Helen Keller Services president and CEO Joseph Bruno applauded the USB-IF and its members like Apple, Intel, HP, Microsoft, and others, pointing out that the new standard will greatly reduce the friction that visually impaired, blind, or deaf-blind users can face when navigating between accessible devices. "It allows these individuals to more seamlessly connect to their favorite devices, which is a major step in helping them connect to the world around them."

Since the standard has just been detailed, no physical USB hardware products have yet to be shown off from any company. Currently, Apple has an entire accessibility store on Apple.com so users with disabilities can use devices crafted just for them to create music in GarageBand, navigate a Mac with a custom trackball, and more. There are no Braille-enabled devices sold by Apple yet, however, so the incoming HID standard could mark the first time that such a device is sold on Apple.com and potentially in retail locations.


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Vision-Focused Accessibility Efforts Made by Apple, Amazon, and Others Highlighted in New Report

A new article published last night by The Wall Street Journal takes a look into how accessibility-focused technology has the "potential to fundamentally change the mobility, employment and lifestyle of the blind and vision-impaired." The piece looks at advancements made by Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and other companies, including hardware and software like Amazon's Echo, Microsoft's Seeing AI app, and Apple's Siri.

One blind individual, Mike May, discussed using dedicated accessibility technology like Aira, which provides users with special glasses that connect them to a human representative in real time who proceeds to describe the user's surroundings to them as they move around. Aira ranges from $89 for 100 minutes per month to $329 for unlimited access per month.


While important for blind users to have technology focused entirely on their daily needs, advocate Mark Riccobono pointed out that introducing accessibility into existing devices, like Apple does, "may be an even bigger need."
He points to the iPhone, which had accessibility built into it from the beginning.

“I can go down to the Apple store and pay the same price and triple-click the home button and I have VoiceOver,” says Mr. Riccobono, referring to a feature where the phone will describe aloud what is happening on the screen. “That’s built in, it’s great, it doesn’t cost a penny extra.”
Apple's devices have numerous features aimed at visually impaired users, including VoiceOver, display accommodations, the magnifier and zoom, resizable text options, and more. These features are available across the Apple ecosystem on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. One user, Erik Weihenmayer, mentioned using Siri to send texts to family members, which is also a functionality of HomePod.
Of course, many of the voice-activated devices that have become powerful aids for the blind, such as Amazon’s Echo and Google Home, weren’t specifically designed for them, or with philanthropy in mind.

Mr. Weihenmayer, for example, uses Comcast ’s voice remote to find TV shows, Apple’s Siri to send texts and Amazon’s Alexa to cue up his favorite music.
The article ends with a focus on the next potential "life-changing" technology for the blind: the driverless car. Apple's own progress in this field is now reportedly focused entirely on an autonomous driving system that would be integrated into an existing manufacturer's vehicle.

As Apple works on an autonomous system to launch on a wide scale in the future, it has already ramped up self-driving initiatives around its corporate campuses, recently signing a deal with Volkswagen to use Volkswagen vans as self-driving shuttles to transport employees in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“Transportation can be a very large barrier in the lives of blind people,” impeding everything from employment to education, says Eric Bridges, executive director of the American Council of the Blind. “Having the ability to have one of these vehicles come and take you where you want to go, when you want to go, and not be constrained by the paratransit system or the fixed-route system,” promises a greater level of independence and freedom, he says.
Other companies have beaten Apple to market in this field, most notably including Alphabet's Waymo, which is planning an autonomous car service for a wide launch in 2018. For its part, Waymo says it will put audio tools and Braille labels in its self-driving cars so that blind riders can perform tasks like requesting the car to pull over or calling a Waymo operator.

For Apple, the company on May 17 highlighted a wide range of its accessibility features on its website in honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day. The updated Apple.com accessibility page includes a short commercial from 2016 about real people with disabilities who use Apple products in everyday life, narrated by Sady Paulson, who uses Switch Control on a Mac.

Otherwise there are dedicated sections on the webpage for different types of disabilities, including Vision, Hearing, Physical and Motor Skills, and Learning and Literacy. At the top of the page Apple explains, "Technology is most powerful when it empowers everyone."


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Apple’s Everyone Can Code Curriculum Expanding to Schools Serving Blind and Deaf Students

Apple today on Global Accessibility Awareness Day announced that its Everyone Can Code curriculum is expanding to schools serving deaf, blind, or visually impaired students, starting with various locations in the United States in the fall.


Initial list of participating schools:
  • California School for the Blind (Fremont, CA)
  • California School for the Deaf (Fremont, CA)
  • District 75/Citywide Programs (New York, NY)
  • Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (St. Augustine, FL)
  • Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired (Winetka, IL)
  • Perkins School for the Blind (Watertown, MA)
  • Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (Austin, TX)
  • Texas School for the Deaf (Austin, TX)
Everyone Can Code enables students of all ages to learn how to code with Apple's open source programming language Swift. The curriculum involves the iPad app Swift Playgrounds, which lets students use real code to solve puzzles and control characters, and the iBooks course App Development with Swift.

Apple has tailored Everyone Can Code to work with its accessibility features, ranging from its screen-reading technology VoiceOver to Switch Control, which enables switches, joysticks, and other adaptive devices to control what is on the screen.
Apple collaborated with engineers, educators, and programmers from various accessibility communities to make Everyone Can Code as accessible as possible and will work in close coordination with schools to augment the curricula as needed. This will include providing additional tools and resources such as tactile maps to enhance the understanding of coding environments for non-visual learners.
Apple CEO Tim Cook:
Apple's mission is to make products as accessible as possible. We created Everyone Can Code because we believe all students deserve an opportunity to learn the language of technology. We hope to bring Everyone Can Code to even more schools around the world serving students with disabilities.
Bill Daugherty, superintendent at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, offered praise for the initiative:
Our students were tremendously excited at our first Everyone Can Code session earlier this year. There are more than 10,400 students with visual impairments in Texas, and the development of this curricula is going to be a big step in opening up coding opportunities for our students and those across the nation.
Apple also announced that, throughout May, all of its retail stores will host accessibility-related sessions for customers. On May 17, Apple's corporate offices in Cupertino, Austin, Cork, and London will also hold events.


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