Apple has announced a slew of new accessibility features coming to the iPhone and its other devices later this year.
They include Personal Voice, which uses a synthesized version of your voice for spoken conversations, offering a more meaningful way to communicate with loved ones for those who have lost the ability to talk.
Personal Voice will be easy to set up, too, as it only requires you to read a randomized set of text prompts for around 15 minutes so the system can learn your voice.
Then, with another feature called Live Speech for iPhone, iPad, and Mac, you can type what you want to say and have it spoken out loud in your own voice during phone and FaceTime calls and also in-person conversations. If a person’s ability to speak is already impaired, Live Speech will speak for you using a preloaded voice.
To save you typing out each and every word, you can also save commonly used phrases that can be activated in a split second.
Of course, you need a functioning voice to set up the system, but for those with a condition that means they could lose their ability to speak in the future, Personal Voice will be a welcome addition to Apple’s growing collection of accessibility tools.
“At the end of the day, the most important thing is being able to communicate with friends and family,” Philip Green, board member and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) advocate at the Team Gleason nonprofit, who has experienced significant changes to his voice since receiving his ALS diagnosis in 2018. “If you can tell them you love them, in a voice that sounds like you, it makes all the difference in the world.”
Apple also previewed software features for cognitive, vision, hearing, and mobility accessibility.
Assistive Access, for example, distills apps and experiences to their essential features to make them easier to use. Focusing on apps such as Phone, FaceTime, Messages, Camera, Photos, and Music, Assistive Access offers a distinct interface with high contrast buttons and large text labels.
Another useful addition is Point and Speak for the Magnifier app, which is designed to make it easier for users with vision disabilities to interact with physical objects that have several text labels.
Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s senior director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives, said the new features were “designed with feedback from members of disability communities every step of the way, to support a diverse set of users and help people connect in new ways.”