Apple previews iOS 17 accessibility features: Assistive Access, Personal Voice and Live Speech, more

Home » Apple previews iOS 17 accessibility features: Assistive Access, Personal Voice and Live Speech, more
Apple previews iOS 17 accessibility features: Assistive Access, Personal Voice and Live Speech, more


Ahead of WWDC in June, Apple today has announced a range of new accessibility features coming to iPhone and iPad this year. The new features include a new “Assistive Access” interface option, Live Speech, Personal Voice Advance Speech, and more.

The first new feature announced by Apple today is called Assistive Access, and the company says this feature is meant to support users with cognitive disabilities.

Assistive Access uses innovations in design to distill apps and experiences to their essential features in order to lighten cognitive load. The feature reflects feedback from people with cognitive disabilities and their trusted supporters — focusing on the activities they enjoy — and that are foundational to iPhone and iPad: connecting with loved ones, capturing and enjoying photos, and listening to music.

Assistive Access includes a customized experience for Phone and FaceTime, which have been combined into a single Calls app, as well as Messages, Camera, Photos, and Music. The feature offers a distinct interface with high contrast buttons and large text labels, as well as tools to help trusted supporters tailor the experience for the individual they support. For example, for users who prefer communicating visually, Messages includes an emoji-only keyboard and the option to record a video message to share with loved ones. Users and trusted supporters can also choose between a more visual, grid-based layout for their Home Screen and apps, or a row-based layout for users who prefer text.

Next up, Apple has announced a new feature called Live Speech. This allows iPhone, iPad, and Mac users to type what they want to say to have it be spoken out loud during phone and FaceTime calls as well as in-person conversations. Users can also save commonly used phrases to chime in quickly during lively conversation.

There’s also a new component to this feature called Personal Voice for users who are at risk of losing their ability to speak. Apple says that this feature is a “simple and secure way to create a voice that sounds like them.”

For users at risk of losing their ability to speak — such as those with a recent diagnosis of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or other conditions that can progressively impact speaking ability — Personal Voice is a simple and secure way to create a voice that sounds like them. 

Users can create a Personal Voice by reading along with a randomized set of text prompts to record 15 minutes of audio on iPhone or iPad. This speech accessibility feature uses on-device machine learning to keep users’ information private and secure and integrates seamlessly with Live Speech so users can speak with their Personal Voice when connecting with loved ones

Apple is also expanding the Detection features in the Magnifier app:

Point and Speak in Magnifier makes it easier for users with vision disabilities to interact with physical objects that have several text labels. For example, while using a household appliance — such as a microwave — Point and Speak combines input from the Camera app, the LiDAR Scanner, and on-device machine learning to announce the text on each button as users move their finger across the keypad.

Point and Speak is built into the Magnifier app on iPhone and iPad, works great with VoiceOver, and can be used with other Magnifier features such as People Detection, Door Detection, and Image Descriptions to help users navigate their physical environment.

Other new Accessibility announcements today from Apple:

  • Deaf or hard-of-hearing users can pair Made for iPhone hearing devices directly to Mac and customize them for their hearing comfort.
  • Voice Control adds phonetic suggestions for text editing so users who type with their voice can choose the right word out of several that might sound alike, like “do,” “due,” and “dew.” Additionally, with Voice Control Guide, users can learn tips and tricks about using voice commands as an alternative to touch and typing across iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
  • Users with physical and motor disabilities who use Switch Control can turn any switch into a virtual game controller to play their favorite games on iPhone and iPad.
  • For users with low vision, Text Size is now easier to adjust across Mac apps such as Finder, Messages, Mail, Calendar, and Notes.
  • Users who are sensitive to rapid animations can automatically pause images with moving elements, such as GIFs, in Messages and Safari.
  • For VoiceOver users, Siri voices sound natural and expressive even at high rates of speech feedback; users can also customize the rate at which Siri speaks to them, with options ranging from 0.8x to 2x.

Apple says that all of these new software features are coming later this year.

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