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Accessible Apple: Alex Jurgensen’s WWDC 2015 Wish List

It’s a few hours from the start from Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) and already I can’t wait to see what new innovations get unveiled for iOS 9 OS X 10.11, the Apple TV and Watch OS. In this article, I will look at some features I hope Apple brings to the table. The primary focus here will be on features that enhance usability. For the AWT staff’s WWDC predictions, look here.

Apple TV

As I’ve written before, an Apple TV SDK could make the device the ideal set top box upon which content providers can build an accessible viewing experience.

Apple Watch

Native apps that run on the Apple Watch would open up many new APIs, including the potential for on-device text to speech, access to onboard sensors and deeper integration with the Taptic engine. The integration of these APIs would allow for a wave of new apps that foster communication, health monitoring, navigation and more.

iOS 9

A dark theme, similar to that found on the Apple Watch, could help low vision users to use iOS. By including a dark theme, apps could be designed with high-contrast in mind, alleviating many of the problems associated with Apple’s “White on Black” accessibility option, mainly that achieves high contract by inverting colours, something that is less than desirable when viewing image-heavy apps.

VoiceOver’s pronunciation dictionary has long been editable on OS X. An interface similar to that used for adding expanding shorthand words, such as “omw” for “on my way”, and found in the “keyboard shortcuts” section of iOS’s Settings -> General -> Keyboard, could be used for this purpose.

OS X 10.11

Siri for Mac OS X would be cool and a great help to all users. However, for those with fine motor skills challenges or other input difficulties, Siri could bridge the gap between OS X’s basic diction commands support and access to the rest of the operating system.

OS X’s VoiceOver does not support multi-language environments very well. Unlike iOS, which switches voices on the fly, depending on the language required by the text being read, OS X’s VoiceOver requires manual switching of languages. It’d be nice if Apple would port this feature to OS X.

VoiceOver (Multi-platform)

A cross-platform, third-party “Voices Store” that includes the ability to download the same voices found on OS X, alongside offerings from other voice manufacturers, would greatly enhance the customizability of VoiceOver’s speech output.

This short wish-list of features only scratches the surface of what I’d like to see included in Apple’s software roadmap for the coming year. It is likely that many, if not all, of these wishes will remain just that for the foreseeable future. We will just have to wait and see what today’s keynote brings.

You can follow Apple’s live stream of the keynote here, and be sure to join some of the AWT staff on Google Hangouts during the event, for some good discussion on today’s announcements.

What do you want to see Apple announce, either at today’s WWDC keynote or later, when betas of upcoming software are expected? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

As always, feel free to leave questions or comments below or on Twitter.

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Steve is the founder and former publisher of Apple World Today and has authored a number of books about Apple products. He's an avid photographer, an FAA-licensed drone pilot, and a really bad guitarist. Steve and his wife Barb love to travel everywhere!