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Laughing Man on Apple WWDC 2020

Apple, arguably, has a great record on tech accessibility but sometimes the company gets things oh so wrong. As a bit of a laugh, as we wait for its WWDC 2020 showpiece keynote event, where Apple unveils details of its operating system updates for the year, here are a few areas that need improving to ensure iOS 14 and watchOS 7, and macOS 10.16 are as accessible as possible to people with severe physical disabilities. We love you Apple but come on guys you can do better than this! My roundup of what the tech giant needs to do to make its devices accessible to everyone.

WWDC 2020: Ultimate accessibility wish list

We’re just a few hours away from WWDC 2020 — Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference. This year it is a completely online event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual keynote is later today where the company will unveil the next major releases of its operating systems, such as iOS 14, watch0S 7 and macOS 10.16, as well as new hardware. Read on as I recap all the new features and improvements I hope to see at WWDC 2020 to make Apple devices much more accessible to people with severe physical disabilities who have problems interacting with screens, keyboards and trackpads. iOS 14 iOS 14 will be a prominent announcement, and WWDC is where Apple unveils details of the latest version of iOS to give developers time to prepare their apps before it’s released to the public. There follows...

Hey Siri open sesame: controlling a smart home with Apple’s assistant

Readers of Aestumanda may recall I had my electric door opener automated with Amazon Alexa voice control just before the UK went into Covid 19 lockdown earlier this year. Due to the lockdown I have had few opportunities to use the new functionality, which helps me get in and out of my flat unaided, because I have been shielding. I’ve only used it with my indoor Amazon Echo smart speakers when I have received the occasional home shopping delivery. Outside my flat in the street, where there are no indoor Amazon smart speakers handy, the solution relied on me wearing Amazon’s wireless Echo Buds to summon Alexa to open the door but they don’t have deep integration with my Apple iPhone. For this reason Apple’s Airpods were always my preferred option for controlling my electric door ...

4 ways Apple can improve Voice Control

It’s a year since Apple first unveiled its flagship accessibility feature called Voice Control at WWDC 2019. With an inspiring short film the company showed Ian McKay, a disability advocate and outdoor enthusiast, using voice commands to control his Mac computer. Voice Control is a speech to text application that is now baked into Apple devices and offers physically disabled people, and anyone who owns a Mac computer, iPhone or iPad the ability to precisely control, dictate and navigate by voice commands alone. I’ve been trying to use the application over the past year and have been left feeling frustrated and disappointed. With the next version of macOS set to be unveiled later this month at WWDC 2020 here’s why and what Apple needs to do next to improve Voice Control. Please ...

macOS 10.16 Wishlist: 3 ways Apple can improve accessibility

A couple of weeks ago Apple invited select developers to attend an accessibility webinar ahead of WWDC 2020. It is said to not be presaging anything WWDC-related as the company does this kind of thing as part of its ongoing work around disability. Apple says its webinar is about how developers can improve their apps by supporting accessibility features. Developers will be able to interact with company engineers during the online event for the first time: “Apple believes that technology is most powerful when it empowers everyone. Join us for an online event to learn how you can take advantage of the award-winning accessibility features that come standard on Apple devices. You’ll be able to ask questions during and after the sessions, and sign up for individual consultations”, th...

watchOS 7 Wishlist: 3 ways Apple can improve accessibility

Last year I wrote about how the release of voice-activated hands-free hey Siri in the second-generation Airpods improved access to the Apple Watch for people with severe physical disabilities. Where previously users had to be able to physically raise their hand to press an Airpod to trigger Siri into action on the Watch, or raise and twist their wrist significantly, (something many people with severe physical disabilities cannot do), now hands-free Siri means users can summon the voice assistant to make phone calls, send messages, play music, and much more on the Apple Watch by voice commands. However, despite this welcome development, in general, the accessibility options on the Apple Watch for people with severe physical disabilities are very limited. Aside from what Siri can do there is...

iOS 14 Wishlist: 5 ways Apple can improve accessibility

Earlier this week I installed a fairly significant update to the iPhone’s operating system iOS 13.4. Whilst it included new features such as iCloud Drive folder sharing, and improvements to the Mail application amongst others, it’s a pity Apple so infrequently improves accessibility features between annual operating system updates. I have been waiting six months for the tech giant to improve access to my iPhone, including support for UK English in Voice Control dictation; to toggle the Auto-Answer feature on and off with Siri; and the ability to hang up phone calls by a voice command as I can with my smart speakers at home, (including the HomePod). For macOS users Apple also released a new update this week, and it was encouraging to see it included new head pointer support. You can s...

Waking up to Alexa: 2020 follow-up

Aside from the coronavirus threatening me and the rest of the world it has been a very positive start to 2020 as I continue extending my smart home to give me more independence, choice and control of my life. My voice controlled smart home journey started back in autumn 2018 when the progression of my genetic muscle wasting condition, muscular dystrophy, meant that I could no longer rely on my hands and arms to do things due to progressive and severe muscle weakness. Turning the lights on, closing the blinds, and stepping up the thermostat had become impossible. At that point I decided that voice control of smart home devices was the way forward if I wanted to maintain, and even extend, my independence. Two years ago, I wrote about my early experiences of building my smart home explaining ...

Access denied: Apple and the iPhone Upgrade Programme

iPhones are eye-wateringly expensive. The latest one, the iPhone 11 Pro, costs from £1,049 but is a product that is unrivalled for its size with a gold standard camera, great screen and 32-hour battery life. Every September, when new iPhones are traditionally released, if I feel it’s time to upgrade mine to the latest and greatest, I buy a new one directly from Apple for the full price, rather than going with a two-year contract through a phone network. Despite the hefty premium price tag if you have cash in the bank this is the most economical way of funding a new iPhone. However, this year I was attracted by Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Programme. The Programme is billed as Apple’s easy solution for people who want to upgrade to a new iPhone every year, but don’t want to be t...

Smarter adds Siri control to its iKettle

Smarter makers of the iKettle have announced Siri Shortcuts integration for its Wi-Fi smart kettle is coming at the end of this month. Hey, we are about to launch a new version of the app which will include Siri, we hope to have this released before the end of the month — Smarter (@Smarter_AM) November 21, 2019 Responding to a tweet from Colin Hughes, a Aestumanda contributor, the company said: “Hey, we are about to launch a new version of the app which will include Siri, we hope to have this released before the end of the month.” Smarter has offered Alexa and Google Assistant voice control for its kettle for a while now and has been promising Siri integration for a couple of years. The update should mean that going forward Apple users can control their kettle with voice commands. In a fol...

A letter to Apple from a lone voice in the wilderness

In the year Apple has released its most significant accessibility initiative ever it may not be popular to express the idea that in some areas Apple is failing its most severely disabled consumers but it has to be said. Despite the introduction of Voice Control, the company’s new voice recognition tech, Apple has fallen short when it comes to providing comprehensive access for users with certain physical motor conditions whose only option is to control their Apple devices with their voice. I am quadriplegic, as a result of muscular dystrophy, which means I have difficulty using the iPhone screen, Apple Watch face, and MacBook keyboard for writing an email, sending a message, posting to Facebook and Twitter, or controlling my smart home. Rather than typing on to a screen or keyboard, ...

What’s up with Apple’s new Voice Control?

Full, fantastic, life-changing…this was one of the gushing headlines about Apple’s new Voice Control feature after it was announced at the tech giant’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on 7 June. Voice control offers physically disabled people, and anyone who owns a Mac computer, iPhone or iPad the ability to precisely control, dictate and navigate their devices by voice commands alone. The company’s new accessibility feature was unveiled with an inspiring short film. In it, a man in a wheelchair — Ian Mackay, a disability advocate and outdoor enthusiast — issued voice commands to a Mac computer. With little delay, the computer did as it was told. So far so good for anyone who wants to control their devices with only their voice. However, with little ov...

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