Apple Announces Plans to Add AI Capabilities to 3 Cognitive Accessibility Features

Hear texts in your own voice, read off what you're pointing at, and more

Apple is working on several new AI- enhanced accessibility features to assist users with visual, mobile, vocal, and cognitive impairments.

Several new accessibility options and updates are on the way to the iPhone and iPad, with Apple drawing on hardware, software, and machine learning to make it happen. "These groundbreaking features were designed with feedback from members of disability communities every step of the way," said Apple senior director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives, Sarah Herrlinger, in the announcement, "to support a diverse set of users and help people connect in new ways."

Cognitive accessibility features on iPhone

Assistive Access—developed in collaboration with people experiencing cognitive disabilities and their supporters—streamlines the interfaces of some apps to "lighten the cognitive load." It also combines similar apps (like Phone and FaceTime) into one while also allowing for a number of settings to cater more to a specific user's needs. These include an emoji-only keyboard for those who prefer more visual-based communication, the option to organize the Home Screen into rows (for those who prefer text), and so on.

Live Speech is designed to support non-verbal users (or users who have lost their ability to speak over time) by offering pre-recorded response options and text-to-speech during calls. And a Personal Voice tool can record 15 minutes of audio (suggested text read by the user), then use that data to generate speech in the user's voice.

Cognitive accessibility features on iPad and iPhone


Users with impaired vision will also be able to use the new Point and Speak feature for the Magnifier app to make discerning text labels on various items easier. While aiming the camera at the text (a microwave keypad, cereal box nutrition information, etc.), users can physically point a finger at what they want to read. The iPhone (or iPad) will audibly read the text in the indicated area

All of Apple's new AI-enhanced cognitive accessibility features are expected to roll out on iPhones and iPads "later this year," though there's no specific launch window at this time. iOS and iPadOS version requirements also remain a mystery for now.

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