California: Helping people with disabilities enjoy the technology the way most of us do is a new challenge for the tech companies and Apple has stepped up efforts to make its devices accessible to more than one billion people living with some kind of disability. For the visually-challenged, the company last week introduced ‘Voice Control’ a new experience that enables users to operate their iPhone, iPad or Mac entirely by their voice.
Using the latest Siri speech recognition technology, Voice Control gets even more accurate text transcription and editing. Users can even use gestures like tapping, swiping and scrolling. With macOS Catalina, Apple has introduced new assistive technologies to help every user get the most out of their Mac desktop system. “Voice Control enables users who can’t operate traditional input devices to control their Mac entirely with their voice using on-device Siri speech recognition technology, which also ensures personal data is kept private,” said the company.
New labels and grids let users interact with virtually any app using comprehensive navigation tools, with audio processing happening on-device. Indian developers have begun building apps with Apple assistive technologies built-in. Take the case of Wysa — a Bengaluru-based mental health wellness app powered by an Artificial Intelligence-based bot. Co-founded by Jo Aggarwal and Ramakant Vempati, the emotionally intelligent chatbot uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to react to the emotions you express.
Nearly 1.2 million users around the world have used this innovative app and 20 per cent are from India. Young adults form a large percentage and the app has witnessed 80 million conversations. According to Wysa founders, India has over 5,000 psychiatrists and more than 2,000 clinical psychologists yet the mental health professionals are under booked.
This shows how much stigma and lack of access there is for mental health support in India. Wysa applied key technologies like Apple accessibility features, Machine Learning (CoreML), Watch and Siri shortcuts so that people get timely support for negative emotions, reframe negative thoughts and improve their mood. According to an Apple spokesperson, the company’s Accelerator in Bengaluru has helped Wysa excel on its journey.
“The Accelerator helped Wysa implement AI technologies, revamp design to deliver seamless user experience and helped build Accessibility features for the visually impaired so they can break barriers and access emotional support,” the spokesperson told IANS. Lookup is another app that has incorporated accessibility features so it can empower all. Developed by Vidit Bhargava who was Apple WWDC student scholar in 2016, Lookup is an easy to use English dictionary app, a great reading companion for avid readers and a visual learning tool for kids.
Today, India has one of the most vibrant and exciting iOS developer communities who have already created nearly 100,000 apps for the App Store worldwide and accessibility is on top of their minds. Over 700,000 app economy jobs can be attributed to iOS ecosystem in India. Apple devices today can let you write a text or email without seeing the screen. You can take a perfect group selfie just by hearing how many faces are in the frame.
VoiceOver feature describes exactly what’s happening on your iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch, or Apple TV, so you can navigate your device just by listening. If you have colour blindness or other vision challenges, you can adjust the view on your Mac, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, and Apple TV so it works better for you. Live Listen feature lets users fine-tune “Made for iPhone” hearing aids and AirPods to help them hear more clearly.
Switch Control is an assistive technology that lets people use built-in features as well as switches, a joystick, or other adaptive devices to control what’s on the screen so you can fully interact with your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV without touching it. With Siri Shortcuts for HomePod, iOS, and watchOS, you can run multi-action commands through simple phrases custom-designed to fit your needs. “You can navigate macOS with minimal use of a physical keyboard. The Accessibility Keyboard is fully customizable and gives users advanced typing and navigation capabilities,” said the company.