Apple unveils new accessibility features coming this year: Door Detection, Live Captions, Apple Watch Mirroring, more

Apple unveils new accessibility features coming this year: Door Detection, Live Captions, Apple Watch Mirroring, more

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In honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Apple is previewing a number of new accessibility features coming to iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac later this year. The company says that these new features will bring additional ways for users with disabilities to “navigate, connect, and get the most out of Apple products.”

Door Detection

One of the new features is called Door Detection, which Apple says can help users locate a door upon arriving at a new destination. Door Detection can help users understand how far they are from a door and describe its attributes, including whether it’s open or closed. If the door is closed, the feature can inform the user whether the door can be opened by pushing, turning a knob, or pulling a handle.

Door Detection can also read signs and symbols around the door, such as room numbers or the “presence of an accessible entrance symbol. The Door Detection feature works with a combination of LiDAR, your iPhone or iPad’s camera, and machine learning.

Apple Watch Mirroring and Quick Actions

For Apple Watch, users, Apple has announced a new Apple Watch Mirroring feature. This is described as a way to make the Apple Watch “more accessible than ever for people with physical and motor disabilities.”

Apple explains that Apple Watch Mirroring allows users to control Apple Watch using iPhone’s assistive features like Voice Control and Switch Control, and use inputs including voice commands, sound actions, head tracking, or external Made for iPhone switches as alternatives to tapping the Apple Watch display.

Apple Watch Mirroring uses a combination of hardware and software capabilities, including “advances built on AirPlay.” The key here is that users who rely on these mobility features can access things like Blood Oxygen, Heart Rate, Mindfulness, and more from their Apple Watch.

Quick Actions is another new feature coming to Apple Watch:

With new Quick Actions on Apple Watch, a double-pinch gesture can answer or end a phone call, dismiss a notification, take a photo, play or pause media in the Now Playing app, and start, pause, or resume a workout. This builds on the innovative technology used in AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch, which gives users with upper body limb differences the option to control Apple Watch with gestures like a pinch or a clench without having to tap the display.

Live Captions

For the deaf and hard of hearing community, Apple has announced Live Captions for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. These feature works by captioning audio content in real-time, including FaceTime calls, any other social media or video app, streaming media content, or even “having a conversation with someone next to them.”

Apple says:

Live Captions in FaceTime attribute auto-transcribed dialogue to call participants, so group video calls become even more convenient for users with hearing disabilities. When Live Captions are used for calls on Mac, users have the option to type a response and have it spoken aloud in real time to others who are part of the conversation. And because Live Captions are generated on device, user information stays private and secure.


Other new Accessibility features announced by Apple today include:

  • VoiceOver, Apple’s industry-leading screen reader for blind and low vision users, is adding support for more than 20 additional locales and languages, including Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.
  • With Buddy Controller, users can ask a care provider or friend to help them play a game; Buddy Controller combines any two game controllers into one, so multiple controllers can drive the input for a single player.
  • With Siri Pause Time, users with speech disabilities can adjust how long Siri waits before responding to a request.
  • Voice Control Spelling Mode gives users the option to dictate custom spellings using letter-by-letter input.5
  • Sound Recognition can be customized to recognize sounds that are specific to a person’s environment, like their home’s unique alarm, doorbell, or appliances. 
  • The Apple Books app will offer new themes, and introduce customization options such as bolding text and adjusting line, character, and word spacing for an even more accessible reading experience.

These features are coming in software updates later this year, Apple says. You can learn more in the company’s full press release.

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