Apple previews new AssistiveTouch for Apple Watch

Along with a bunch of new accessibility features.

Georgia Dixon
Digital Content Editor
Read More
May 20, 2021
2 min read
Lineup of Apple Watches

A number of new Apple accessibility features have just been announced as part of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (today, May 20), including AssistiveTouch on watchOS, eye-tracking support for iPad, new VoiceOver features, better hearing aid support, and more inclusive Memoji customisations.

While there are no official dates for any of the below features, we do know they'll be coming later this year.

AssistiveTouch for watchOS

Designed for people with upper body limb differences, AssistiveTouch for watchOS allows users to control their Apple Watch with a series of hand gestures. Using built-in motion sensors and the optical heart rate sensor, the Apple Watch is able to detect subtle muscle and tendon movement, allowing users to navigate the screen, answer calls, start new workouts and more with a simple pinch of the fingers or clench of the hand.

Eye-tracking support for iPad

For people with compatible Made for iPhone (MFi) eye-tracking devices, iPadOS will soon support third-party eye-trackers, allowing users to control their iPad with only their eyes. These devices will track where on the screen a person is looking, with a pointer following their gaze and actions like extended eye contact working like a physical tap.

New VoiceOver features

VoiceOver, a screen reader for people who are blind or have low vision, is about to get a bunch of new features. Users will soon be able to explore images with greater depth, with more details about the people, text, data and other objects present in the image. VoiceOver will also be able to describe a subject's position in an image, and users can add their own image descriptions to personalise their own photos.

Hearing Aids and audiogram support

Apple is now adding support for bi-directional MFi hearing devices (available later this year), allowing people who are deaf or hard of hearing to have hands-free conversations over the phone and FaceTime. Users will also be able to import their audiograms (hearing test charts) from paper or PDF onto their iPhone

Background sounds

For neurodivergent people who find everyday noises to be distracting or overwhelming, Apple is introducing a new feature to help users focus and relax: Background Sounds. Users can choose between balanced, bright, or dark noise, or can opt for relaxing ocean, rain or stream sounds to disguise uncomfortable environmental noise.

Inclusive Memoji customisations

People with disabilities will soon be able to create a Memoji that better represents them, with new customisation options including cochlear implants, oxygen tubes and soft helmets.

Georgia Dixon
Written by
Georgia Dixon
Georgia Dixon has over seven years' experience writing about all things tech, entertainment and lifestyle, with bylines in TechLife magazine, 7NEWS and In her spare time, you'll find her playing games and daydreaming about good food, wine, and dogs.

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