Siri update boosts accessibility on iOS devices

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Tuesday, 12 June 2012 16:39pm

The update to Apple’s operating system iOS 6 announced today will provide a boost to the accessibility of Apple’s mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad. 

Improvements made to its voice activation software Siri, which will now also be included on the iPad tablet, will increase the accessibility of apps, particularly those with geolocation features.

One of the biggest announcements made today is the introduction of Apple’s own Maps service. The Maps app will now replace the Google Maps app as the primary maps service on all iDevices and will have integration with Siri.

The integration of the Maps app with Siri means users can use voice commands to navigate the Maps app and retrieve geolocation information such as turn-by-turn directions (both visual and spoken), find the nearest petrol station and landmarks, and provide estimates of arrival times.

The Maps app will also include crowd-sourced information about traffic conditions so users can be kept up-to-date on nearby accidents. You can also view maps in a variety of modes including the 3D ‘Flyover’ view which shows landmarks and streets in 3D.

Other improvements to Siri include expanding its local search capabilities to international locations so users can ask Siri to provide information on restaurants and movies using reviews and recommendations on the crowd-source service Yelp.

Perhaps the most interesting improvement to Siri is that it can now be used to launch other apps on iOS devices. The improved integration of Siri with other apps will enable blind or vision impaired users to access more features on their iOS device through voice commands.

The native iOS screen reader VoiceOver has also been upgraded in iOS 6. VoiceOver is now integrated with Zoom (the iOS screen magnifier), Assistive Touch and the Maps app. This means VoiceOver can be used with these three inbuilt accessibility apps. In the current iOS version, Zoom and VoiceOver can only be used separately. Apple is yet to provide more details on how VoiceOver will work with Zoom, however VoiceOver will be able to announce when Zoom has been activated.

A new accessibility feature called Guided Access has been included in the iOS 6 update. Guided Access will allow a parent, teacher or supervisor to control or set limits to the touch input areas of the screen. This is helpful for users who have learning disabilities or are mobility impaired.

The iOS 6 update for both the iPhone and iPad will be available to download from iTunes in Australia in September.

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