New Accessibility features Apple added in iOS 8

In every new iOS Apple release, the company puts in a lot of effort to not just add mainstream features like Continuity, Extensions, but it focuses on improving "iOS Accessibility" In this post, we list out all the accessibility improvements in iOS 8.

Natural Sounding VoiceOver

Apple is bringing Alex, its natural-sounding voice on the Mac, to iOS. Alex will work with all of iOS’s spoken audio technologies (Siri excepted), including VoiceOver, Speak Selection, and another new Accessibility feature to iOS 8, Speak Screen (see below). In essence, Alex is a replacement for the robotic-sounding voice that controls VoiceOver, et al, in iOS today.

Speak Screen

Speak Screen is a new feature in iOS 8, that speaks out the contents of the screen including text, buttons, labels etc. This feature can be triggered by a simple gesture, and will be great for people who are visually impaired. iOS 7 already has a similar feature called Speak Selection, but it only works with text that is currently selected.

Improvements to Zoom

Apple has made some welcome tweaks to its Zoom functionality in iOS 8. The hallmark feature is users now have the ability to specify which part of the screen is zoomed in, as well as adjust the level of the zoom. In particular, it’s now possible to have the virtual keyboard on screen at normal size underneath a zoomed-in window. What this does is makes it easy to both type and see what you’re typing without having to battle the entirety of the user interface being zoomed in.


In addition to Invert Colors, Apple is introducing a new Grayscale mode that renders the entire user interface in gray scale rather than color.

Guided Access Improvements

The big addition to Guided Access is that Apple is leveraging its own new-to-iOS-8 Touch ID developer API to enable users to be able to exit Guided Access using their scanned fingerprint. This is a noteworthy feature because it effectively guarantees that students (or test-takers or museum visitors) can’t leave Guided Access to access the Home screen or other parts of iOS.

Braille Keyboard

Apple has added support for a 6 dot Braille keyboard throughout the system to help those who are visually impaired type.

Third Party Keyboard API. This topic (as well as QuickType) is worthy of its own standalone article, but the accessibility ramifications of iOS 8’s third party keyboard API are potentially huge for those with special needs.

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