Apple this morning held its second event in as many months, announcing a new HomePod Mini and a range of new iPhones. The iPhone is undeniably Apple’s crown jewel product, and the new ones look as stellar as ever, while the baby HomePod feels like something Cupertino should’ve launched years ago.
Forget 5G networking. Forget the Pro Max’s LiDAR sensor and fancy camera tricks. Forget the (albeit delightful) new color finishes on both iPhones. Forget HomePod Mini doesn’t (for now?) support Spotify. If you’re someone who cares deeply about accessibility, disabled or not, the high-level take from today’s announcement was unmistakable. Everything Apple announced today has some sort of accessibility story that will define the user experience for legions of buyers with disabilities. It’s yet another lesson that accessible hardware matters just as much as accessible software.
Look no further than the reintroduction of MagSafe to the Apple
When Alexa launched six years ago, no one imagined that by today there would be hundreds of millions of Alexa-enabled devices or that Alexa would become part of so many lives. For people who are blind or visually impaired, voice assistants are a huge convenience, whether you are calling a loved one, cooking a meal, checking a sports score, or asking for the weather or time. This fall, Alexa introduced personalization and conversational capabilities that are steps toward a more human-like, digital factotum.
It’s exciting to announce that Amazon’s Josh Miele, Principal Accessibility Researcher at Amazon’s Lab126, and Anne Toth, Director of Amazon’s Alexa Trust, will be speaking at Sight Tech Global, a virtual, global event that addresses how rapid advances in technology, many of them AI-based, will influence the development of accessibility and assistive technology for people who are blind or visually impaired.
Twitter said it’s working on adding transcriptions to voice tweets in order to make the feature, which it began testing in the summer, more accessible. This comes after many criticized the social media platform for not taking all users’ needs into consideration before the release.
“We’re rolling out voice Tweets to more of you on iOS so we can keep learning about how people use audio,” the company said in a tweet on Tuesday. “Since introducing the feature in June, we’ve taken your feedback seriously and are working to have transcription available to make voice Tweets more accessible.”
Recode reporter Jason Del Rey on Tuesday wrote a story about Amazon’s latest commerce-centric endeavor: the Amazon One payment kiosk. Amazon One is a biometric technology that allows customers to, according to Del Rey, “pay at stores by placing their palm over a scanning device when they walk in the door or when they check out. “ Amazon is rolling out the new technology at its Amazon Go cashierless convenience stores in Seattle, but will expand to its other outposts in the future. The company also hopes to sell the tech to third-party retailers as well.
Del Rey’s piece delves into the privacy issues regarding sending one’s handprints to Amazon’s cloud servers, but there is another interesting use case: accessibility. At first blush, the contactless nature of Amazon One is seemingly a more accessible way to authenticate payment than competitors such as Apple’s Apple Pay. The reason is there