Apple turns inclusivity up to 11: iPhone X, iOS 11 and accessibility

All the amps on Spinal Tap can be turned up to 11

Last week I wrote about Apple’s mission to remove physical buttons from the iPhone and the many options we have in a buttonless future. Now we've seen the launch of the new IOS11 and the iPhone X - so let's look at the accessibility benefits this new combination could offer…

Apple turns inclusivity up to 11

I’ve written in previous posts about the excellent and comprehensive accessibility features already present in Apple's iDevices - including a recent article on using accessibility settings to get more out of your device, from longer battery life to better productivity.

Anyone who remembers the cult movie This is Spinal Tap will appreciate the reference to turning things up to 11 - and that isn’t an exaggeration for what Apple has done in terms of new accessibility settings and features within iOS 11, which it released this week.

Reading the excellent ebook iOS 11 Without the Eye by the ambassador of accessibility himself Jonathan Mosen is my top tip for finding out about all the accessibility additions in the new operating system. It has powerful productivity pointers as well as a comprehensive review of those adjustments that can make our smartphone more accommodating to our needs, regardless of impairment or environment.

Text resizing – now just one swipe away

New to iOS 11, one accessibility feature that should prove invaluable to many users is the ability to now readily access the text resizing widget from within Control Centre. Jonathan explains how to add this feature (and many others) to your Control Centre which is then easily accessed, as usual, with a swipe up from the bottom of the screen.

As outlined in my last post, if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on an iPhone X then swiping up the screen is actually now the new way to close an app (like clicking the Home button) so in this case the Control Panel is opened by swiping only half way up the screen instead.

Confusing? Perhaps briefly but if you’d prefer another method then that same post of mine also explained how to use an on-screen menu instead.

screen shot from Robin's iPhone showing the new style control centre

New screen recording options

As you see from the screenshot above I also have the new screen recording widget (the concentric circles icon) added to Control Centre on my phone. 

Of course, this feature has many more mainstream applications (such as creating tutorial videos on how to use an app, website or game), but as a blind person I plan to use this feature to record myself using an app with the screen-reading function (called VoiceOver) running to show a developer where things are not correctly spoken. The video that is captured would include the screen activity, the speech from VoiceOver and your own comments. VoiceOver also puts a black outline around spoken items so the developer could see exactly what is proving problematic.

Lock yourself into a leaner, meaner online experience

There are numerous new features in iOS 11 that could be considered accessibility features. Some are found in the Accessibility settings and others elsewhere. And anyone who reads my articles regularly knows that I feel it’s unhelpful to distinguish between features meant specifically to address disability, dyslexia or impairment etc and those that happen to be found in other areas of the Settings app than the Accessibility section. They are far too numerous to mention here (check out Jonathon’s book or other helpful resources such as the ever-comprehensive iMore.com website but I will mention just one more before closing.

iOS 11 now allows us to lock our Safari web browsing experience into the permanently cleaner and less cluttered view that is Reader Mode.

Reader Mode has been available for a long time (simply tap the Reader button at the top of your browser to get a version of the page without many of the ads, social sharing links and other detritus that litters the average web page) but now it’s possible to have Safari intelligently apply Reader Mode to all pages that you visit – only allowing the more complex view to appear when the website is more dynamic. 

Reader Mode is perfect for information sites such as news sites like the BBC, but less so for interactive sites such as the online shopping giants of Amazon or eBay. Reader Mode can also be turned on on a site by site basis so you can choose which sites to lock into this lovely, lean viewing experience.

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