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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...

Apple is listening: Voice Control widens access

Accessibility doesn’t often get much coverage or attention by tech companies, or the media, but today Apple revealed what could be a big step forward for people with physical and motor disabilities: Voice Control. With macOS Catalina and iOS 13 you will soon be able to control your Apple device completely by your voice. This is a significant as it is a recognition by Apple for the first time that people with physical disabilities want alternative methods of control other than Switch Control, which is the method Apple has offered users until now. At WWDC today, Apple demonstrated that Voice Control can be used to do things like launch apps, attach photos to messages, write, edit and send email and messages, and much more. For those concerned about privacy the company says your voice is proc...

Best features from Apple WWDC that will never come

Every year Apple uses its Worldwide Developers Conference to showcase its new software and technologies for developers. The conference opening keynote is where the tech giant’s top executives preview the company’s upcoming operating systems. iOS 13, macOS 10.15, tvOS 13, watchOS 6, are expected to be unveiled. Apple usually releases developer betas of its new iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV software the same day, followed by public beta versions a few weeks later and final releases to consumers in September. With WWDC 2019 only a few days away the internet is alight with rumours and predictions of what we’ll see — or what people would like to see during the keynote. However, amongst all the increasingly fevered speculation about Dark Mode for iOS 13, Safari and Mail upgrades, ...

Waking up to Alexa

Please note there has been an update to this article Waking up to Alexa: 2020 follow-up Whether it’s bolstering your home security, watering your garden, or turning your lights on and off, smart technology is starting to fill our homes. For some it seems it can be too much like hard work to get off the sofa to even adjust the thermostat. Smart home gadgets now mean smart speakers can play music when you talk to them, you can turn the heating on before you get home, and a smart camera can alert you if there’s an intruder – or even feed your pet for you. However, for others this increasingly ubiquitous smart home technology does a lot more than simply adding a bit of convenience to our increasingly slothful lives. This was brought home to me at Christmas when I lost my brother Ian, age...

Siri: Why do you keep me hanging on the telephone?

For ten years I have been an Apple addict spending thousands of pounds on MacBooks, iPhones, Airpods, Watches, and Airport Expresses. I have had brief flirtations with other devices and software like Samsung and Windows 10 but quickly dashed back to the Apple ecosystem. I have always thought their products “just work” and their seamless integration with each other is a huge pulling factor. However, something significant happened at Christmas that for the first time has me questioning my loyalty to the mighty Apple. For me, it has smashed out that phrase by Steve Jobs boasting Apple products “just work”. The truth is they don’t any more, or not as well as they could and should. Apple software has been on a long, slow decline. Full of annoying little bugs, shortcomings, missing f...

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