iOS 8 is now available! We are excited about the accessibility improvements in Apple’s new operating system. Before you upgrade devices that are used by individuals with disabilities, check out our iOS 8 upgrade checklist to keep informed about potential impacts.
New iOS 8 FeaturesNow that you have the iOS 8 upgrade checklist, here are some new features of iOS 8 that we thought you may like.
Switch Control is an accessibility feature that was first introduced in iOS 7. Switch Control gives a user the ability to control almost any aspect of their iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch with one or two external switches. Here are a few of the important changes that we’ve noticed in iOS 8.
Scanning Pop-up Menu
When scanning and a switch is clicked, a pop-up menu of options appears on the screen. There are two important changes to this pop-up menu.
The amount of options that initially shows on screen has changed. In the initial click state, fewer options are presented to the user; typically Tap and one or two other options that would apply to the object that has been selected. The user can then scan to a second menu/screen of options. Overall, the amount of options available to the user has not decreased, but the logic behind how they are displayed has changed.
Inside of the menu, when there are multiple rows of options, only the row that is selected is highlighted/active. The other rows of options are grayed out until the scan reaches them.
Gliding Cursor Speed
The speed of the gliding cursor has been greatly reduced at the lowest setting. In iOS 8 it takes approximately 15-seconds for the gliding cursor to get from one side of the screen to the other versus just 5-seconds in iOS 7. This slower speed will help individuals who are unable to react as quickly as other users.
There has been a slight change to the Bluetooth Pairing menu within the settings app. In iOS 7 all Bluetooth devices would show up in a section called My Devices and have the status of Connected, Not Connected, or Not Paired. In iOS 8, under My Devices, you only see devices that have previously been paired or are currently paired with the iDevice. For other devices that could potentially pair with that iDevice, they now show up under a section called Other Devices. This is important for anyone trying to pair the Blue2 Bluetooth Switch with their iDevice for the first time.
Assistive Touch Enhancements
Access to the Notification Center and Control Center has been added to Assistive Touch.
Better word prediction is now integrated into iOS 8. Simply start typing and iOS 8 will recommend your next word based on your writing style and past messages. Word recommendations appear at the top of the keyboard and are easy for switch users to scan to and select.
A new API for developers is available to allow third-party keyboards to be used on iOS devices. This opens the door for more accessible on-screen keyboards to be created.
When Speak Screen is turned on, a two-finger swipe from the top of the screen will start a screen reader that will read back everything available on that screen. This is similar to the Speak Selection feature found in previous versions of iOS, but it will now read the entire screen instead of just a small selection.
Alex is a new high-quality U.S. English voice that delivers natural sounding speech. Alex works well with the Speak Screen feature.
In addition to the Invert Colors feature, a new Grayscale feature has been added so that all screens on the iDevice show up in grayscale. Note that if you are using your device with an Apple TV, the grayscale screen will only show on the iDevice and not on the Apple TV.
The zoom options in iOS 8 have been greatly expanded to give the user more control
You can now select to have a movable zoom window on the screen or zoom the entire like previous versions of iOS. The zoom region (movable zoom window) can be resized to meet the users needs.
The zoom controller is a menu that appears on screen that gives you control of the zoom without having to go back into the Settings App.
You can adjust zoom level from 1X to 15X.
Guided Access Enhancements
Guided Access was introduced in iOS 6 and allows a user to lock an iDevice into a single app. With iOS 8, you can now set time limits on how long an app is locked and unlock Guided Access using Touch ID.
The key feature of Family Sharing is that up to six “family members” can share iTunes, iBooks, and app purchases.
Within iMessage, you can now easily send live voice messages from within the iMessage app by simply selecting the microphone icon.
Health App and HealthKit
The Health App and HealthKit API are going to make it easier for third-party app and hardware developers to track fitness and health data in one place on your iDevice. In addition, future Apple devices, like the Apple Watch, will be able to capture fitness and health data.
The HomeKit API will enable third-party developers to better integrate their home automation hardware and apps with Apple devices. HomeKit will also make it easier for home automation devices to talk to each other and work in harmony. Because of this better integration, native accessibility features should be more widely available for users with disabilities and expand the amount of consumer options that are available for them to use.