For those of you who are iOS users – on iPhone or iPad, Apple’s announcements today had some exciting news. I’m pretty excited about the potential of a few new features that we now expect to see in the fall release of the iOS 8 operating system. In addition to better integration between apps and systems, including integration of a braille keyboard and hearing aid technology, there are a few very specific changes coming which could have a major impact across all abilities. Here are my top 5 for universal access:
1) QuickType: Apple’s keyboard will now integrate predictive text! For those who have been using assistive technology on PCs, or communication devices, for years, this is old technology that we’ve been waiting to have implemented. QuickType will have great implications for those who struggle with physical access, who may use switches, or those with learning disabilities. The great news, is that it should make typing more efficient for everyone – finally a move towards Universal Design for all!
2) Third Party Keyboard Integration: Don’t like your Apple on-screen keyboard? You’ll soon be able to download new ones that will be usable in all your apps, making room for greater accessibility through alternative keyboard layouts and functions – including Swype.
3) iMessage TaptoTalk: In iMessage you’ll now have easier options for sending voice and video message – great if typing is cumbersome, and accessible from the iMessage screen. Whether this will be accessible to switch users easily remains to be seen – will have to update you when we finally see the iOS release!
4) HomeKit: This update is not unexpected, but exciting nonetheless. New Apple certification for Home Automation, and integration within one location will mean easier access and use of multiple types of home automation devices. If Apple does their homework, and ensures HomeKit is Switch Control and Voiceover accessible, it will open many doors (pun intended) for individuals with disabilities.
5) Quick Access with Favourite Contacts: In iOS 7, a double tap to the home button only opened the App Switcher. In iOS8, we will see the ability to access favourite contacts – a quicker way to get to those you need to call with fewer steps. Looking forward to trying out this design with switch access.
Stay tuned for more updates and feature reviews!