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Empowering voices: Apple’s pioneering accessibility enhancements for speech recognition

Last August, I published an article on The Register, drawing attention to a pressing issue affecting 250 million individuals globally: the inadequacy of voice recognition technology for those with non-standard speech. This is a significant challenge for individuals with conditions such as cerebral palsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), stroke survivors, and those with muscular dystrophy like myself. Despite advancements in AI and voice recognition, these technologies often fail to support those who need them most. In my Register piece, I outlined several critical issues with current voice recognition systems: Limited flexibility Many voice recognition systems are narrowly designed, failing to accommodate the varied speech patterns of users with non-standard speech. This has left many ...

England’s broken social care system punishes disabled people and their carers and needs urgent reform

One Monday morning, before Mrs Joy Smith’s council-funded carer had arrived to help her wash and dress, debt collectors arrived at her home demanding payment of the overdue money owed to the council for her basic care. Not a real case, nor the opening line of a new work of fiction, but typical of what goes on. This is the reality of social care in England today. In a society where the care of our most vulnerable is already undervalued, the recent scrutiny over fines levied on tens of thousands of unpaid carers for unwittingly breaching earnings rules by just a few pounds a week highlights a deeper crisis in social care, revealing a system more focused on penalising people than supporting them. Recent criticism from MPs on the Public Accounts Committee underscores the detrimental effects of...

Apple DOJ lawsuit: is Apple’s ecosystem hindering accessibility?

In the realm of modern technology, the intersection of corporate practices and accessibility for disabled people presents a complex landscape. As technology continues to evolve, it’s important to scrutinise the ways in which these advancements either bridge or widen the gap for disabled people. Among the giants in the tech industry, Apple has this week come under scrutiny for its alleged monopoly practices. The US Department of Justices (DOJ) antitrust lawsuit didn’t mention accessibility, nor did the press reporting the news, but I am concerned about the impact of Apple’s “walled garden” approach on accessibility for disabled users. The monopoly concern: Apple’s accessibility dilemma Apple, known for its innovation and tightly integrated ecosystem, has been accused by the DOJ of restricti...

Voicing concerns: the silent struggle for Siri accessibility on Apple Watch

The Apple Watch, often regarded as a symbol of cutting-edge technology, pledges to bring the future to our wrists. Yet, for those with severe upper limb disabilities, this future comes with a caveat. The challenge? Siri’s accessibility—or the lack thereof. Apple’s wizardry has made Siri smarter in recent times. With the voice assistant on your wrist, you can do everything from launching apps to replying to texts to setting alarms and reminders and much more. But waking Siri on the Apple Watch is a feat that remains out of reach for users with limited mobility. Here’s an exploration of this issue and potential solutions. Waking up Siri: a gesture too far Despite Apple’s efforts to enhance Siri’s capabilities on the Watch, the brutal truth is that for users like myself, activatin...

Why Apple Voice Control needs an AI upgrade

Apple’s press release for the new M3 MacBook Air launched this week described the machine as the “world’s best consumer laptop for AI.” The claim comes ahead of WWDC 2024, when the tech giant is expected to announce a raft of new artificial intelligence features across all of its platforms. Apple CEO Tim Cook has teased the company’s plans for new artificial intelligence (AI) announcements twice this year. Last month, he said Apple will share details on its AI work “later this year”, and during a shareholder meeting last week, Cook said that Apple will “break new ground” in generative AI this year. Faced with stiff competition from Microsoft, Google, and OpenAI, there is no doubt that Apple is working on a variety of new AI features for later this year, including a more powerful version of...

Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses: hands-free heaven for accessibility

The Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses launched last October and succeeded the first-generation Ray-Ban Stories. They are a collaboration between Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, and Ray-Ban, the iconic eyewear brand. They are designed to offer a range of features, such as camera, audio, and AI, in a stylish and comfortable form factor. They come in two styles: Wayfarer and Headliner, and various colours and lenses. They cost from £299 and are available in selected countries. While Meta does not explicitly market the smart spectacles’ accessibility potential, what sets these glasses apart from other smart wearables is their capacity to enhance accessibility and improve the quality of life for disabled people. This blog post reviews the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses and explores how...

How I influenced Apple’s Siri updates and what other accessibility features I’m hoping for in 2024

In iOS 17.4, currently in beta testing, there is a new option to set ‌Siri‌ to read incoming messages in a specific language like French, Spanish, German, and many more.The change does not update the primary language that ‌Siri‌ speaks in and responds to, but is limited to message playback. This is something I highlighted to Apple in an email last August citing an example of how adding other languages to Siri would be helpful. I have a Polish carer and we message in Polish but all my other contacts message me in English. This was causing issues with Siri and messaging. Obviously, I am delighted my plea hit the right spot at Apple! Siri message playback in a different language is not an accessibility feature per se, but I highlighted the problem to Apple as a result of an accessibility issu...

KeyboardMike Plus review: SpeechWare’s new highly accurate voice dictation microphone

In today’s digital world, talking instead of typing has become a game-changer. With voice dictation, you can easily turn your spoken words into written text, making tasks like sending emails and messages super easy. And what makes this magic happen? Microphones! These little gadgets aren’t just extras; they’re the heroes behind clear communication. A good voice dictation microphone is like the secret sauce that makes talking to your computer more accurate and efficient.