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Accessibility Features in iOS 7

Apple Expands Braille & Switch Functionality; Adds Closed Captioning


Accessibility Features in iOS 7

Apple iOS 7 features many enhancements that make its mobile devices more accessible to persons with disabilities.

Apple, Inc.

Apple has upgraded the accessibility features on its iOS 7 operating system used in its iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Following is a brief overview of some of the significant changes.


Accessibility Tab: It’s no longer at the bottom of the “General” list under “Settings,” but mid-screen next to “General” for easier access.   
Accessibility Shortcut: The “Triple Click Home” function has a new name, but no new functions.
Handwriting: Using the rotor, you can find apps by drawing the first letter onscreen; there are also finger gestures for editing text, e.g. a three-finger swipe up and down changes the case of a letter.  
Siri: The built-in assistant Siri now knows more about settings, e.g. “Turn VoiceOver on/off,” or “Show accessibility settings."
Spotlight Search: is now available from any page or from within any folder of the home screen by flicking down with three fingers.

Following are enhancements specific to each disability.

Many enhancements to VoiceOver will make iOS devices easier to use for persons who are blind or visually impaired.  
Premium Voices: You can now have as many premium voices as you like on the rotor and cycle among them. Premium voices sound better, but take up more space. The iPhone 4 or higher is required to run iOS 7.
Sound Cues: You can now silence VoiceOver’s sounds such as audible clicks without have to mute everything else, e.g. notifications. This can make it less distracting when using a braille display such as the Focus 14 Blue or BraillePen.
Rotor: The Language Rotor is now called Languages & Dialects, under which you can specify Enhanced Quality under Voice Quality. It’s also more customizable, e.g. you can flick through stuff to get to common actions that used to take many steps.
Phonetic Equivalents: VoiceOver now provides the phonetic equivalent of letters (e.g. saying “victor” to distinguish “v” from “b”) immediately when pressed. This is useful in crowded places where it’s difficult to hear spoken letters.
Larger Type: There’s now has a slider that enables you to adjust text size. You can make text bold, which creates thicker borders around icons, and increase contrast (reduce glare, mute colors) to make things easier to see. You can also select a Large Cursor.  
Braille: Mathematical equations now use the Nemeth braille code; Automatic Braille Translation, “Show Onscreen Keyboard” and “Braille Translation.”


Support for closed captioning has been improved: you now have one place where you can enable or disabled captions and subtitles. You can also customize their appearance, including selecting larger text or creating your own caption style with a selection of fonts, sizes, and colors, as well as background color and opacity.


Guided Access: This featured has been enhanced: you can use Accessibility Shortcut even while Guided Access is running. You triple click the “Home” button within the app you want to use. You can then keep your iPad in a single app and control which features are available, e.g. disabling the “Sleep/Wake” and “Volume” buttons.

Speak Selection: This function now supports additional voices, speaking rates, and languages. You can also download additional foreign languages for the built-in dictionary.

Physical & Motor

Apple’s iOS 7 has enhanced its switch control capabilities, giving persons with mobility impairments greater access to their iOS. In addition to using the screen as a switch, you can connect external switches, or use head movements.

External Switches: One solution is AbleNet’s Blue2 switch, which connects to iOS 7 devices via Bluetooth and can be used as either a single or dual switch. The Blue2 can toggle the on-screen keyboard on and serve as a wireless transmitter when switches are connected to the 2 switch jacks.

Screen Taps: Your iOS device can serve as its own switch. The vertical scan selects each row on the “Home” screen. You single click to select that row. The scan then starts left to right. Single click again on the item you wish to select.

Head Gestures: These enable you to nod to the left to go to your “Home” screen or to the right to drill down into an app. As with all switches, once this setting is activated, iOS cycles through all of your apps and folders. To use head gestures, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Physical & Motor > Switch Control > Switches. Select left or right head movement. You can also add options.

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