Accessibility improvements in Apple iOS 4 for iPhone/iPod Touch

To my great disappointment the screen resolution of my iPod Touch wasn’t affected when I updated it to iOS 4. Not even the 4.1 update fixed that. Sigh. On the other hand, I have found a few accessibility improvements that should make iOS 4 devices easier to use, especially for people who are visually impaired.

Here are a few examples:

  • Visible Rotor Control: The VoiceOver Rotor Control now displays on-screen, which makes it easier for sighted people to change it to a specific setting.
  • Changing languages on the fly: Using the Rotor Control’s language setting lets you change the language VoiceOver uses on the fly. Good if you are multi-lingual and often visit websites that don’t specify which language they’re written in.
  • Support for WAI-ARIA Landmark Roles: If the page you are visiting in Safari has specified WAI-ARIA landmark roles, you can use the Rotor Control to select landmarks and then skip from landmark to landmark on the page by flicking up or down with a single finger. The start of each landmark is announced with “Landmark start”. It does not yet mention what type the landmark is. When testing this I noticed that VoiceOver seems to ignore landmarks that are added with JavaScript – only those that are specified with role attributes in the actual markup are navigated to.
  • Touch typing: You can now enter text when VoiceOver is on without having to double-tap keys or use two fingers by selecting “Touch typing” from the typing mode rotor.
  • Large text: If you need larger text you can specify it for some applications. Safari isn’t one of them though.

Good improvements overall. I wonder when VoiceOver (both iOS and Mac OS X versions) will get full support for WAI-ARIA though.

Posted on September 16, 2010 in Accessibility, Apple, iOS

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