New iOS 17 accessibility features include Personal Voice and Live Speech

Apple has previewed new accessibility features for its iPhone, iPad and Mac coming with iOS 17, iPadOS 17 and macOS 14 this fall, like Personal Voice and Live Speech.

iPhone and iPad showcasing the grid and list-based Home Screen views in iOS 17's Assistive Access feature
List and grid Home Screen views in Assistive Access | Image: Apple
  • Apple has announced new features for cognitive, speech and vision accessibility that’ll be hitting the iPhone, iPad and Mac when iOS 17 launches this fall.
  • One of the features allows your iPhone to learn your voice in just 15 minutes and use it for text-to-speech throughout the system.
  • Another one reads aloud text labels detected on physical objects.

Apple previews upcoming new accessibility features

Ahead of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Apple unveiled a bunch of new accessibility features slated for arrival alongside iOS 17 and other OS updates.

Apple’s software platforms provide robust features for cognitive, speech and vision accessibility. The company often receives praise from accessibility experts for its work in this field, and iOS 17 should continue that trend.

“At Apple, we’ve always believed that the best technology is technology built for everyone,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook. “Today, we’re excited to share incredible new features that build on our long history of making technology accessible so that everyone has the opportunity to create, communicate and do what they love.”

Check out the official May 16 announcement in the Apple Newsroom for details, and stay glued to iDownloadBlog as we publish deeper dives in the coming days.

An overview of iOS 17’s new accessibility features

Typing text to be spoken out loud on the iPhone's Lock Screen and on FaceTime
Type messages to be spoken out loud on FaceTime | Image: Apple

The new accessibility features in iOS 17, iPadOS 17 and macOS 14 include Personal Voice, Live Speech and Assistive Access, among a bunch of others:

  • Personal Voice: Have your iPhone speak in your voice after just 15 minutes of training that involves reading aloud onscreen text prompts.
  • Live Speech: Type out anything you’d like Apple’s text-to-speech feature to read aloud during calls or in-person meetings, either using one of the computer voices or your own synthesized voice created with Personal Voice.
  • Assistive Access: Apps and OS experiences are distilled “to their essential features” to lighten the cognitive load. For example, the Phone and FaceTime apps are combined into one. Other apps like Messages, Camera and Music show large text labels, high-contrast buttons and so on.
  • Point and Speak: Magnifier’s Detection mode can help blind or low-vision users by reading aloud text labels and buttons on things like home appliances and packages using the Camera app—as you move your finger across them.
  • macOS support for MFi hearing devices: Deaf or hard-of-hearing users can pair their hearing accessories with their Macs for the first time ever.

“Accessibility is part of everything we do at Apple,” Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s senior director of global accessibility policy and initiatives, was quoted in the press release.

“These groundbreaking features were designed with feedback from members of disability communities every step of the way, to support a diverse set of users and help people connect in new ways.”

Other accessibility improvements

Aside from the above features, Apple has also announced the following improvements and enhancements for accessibility on the iPhone, iPad and Mac:

  • Voice Control phonetic suggestions: When editing text using your voice, Voice Control shows you phonetic suggestions so you can choose the correct word from several that might sound alike.
  • Voice Control Guide: Tips and tricks about using voice commands as an alternative to touch and typing.
  • VoiceOver speaking rate: Adjust Siri’s speaking rate, ranging from 0.8x to 2x.
  • Switch Control game controller: This will turn any switch into a game controller.
  • Text Size adjustment: The Text Size feature now features easier text size adjustment across the Finder and Mac apps like Messages and Mail.
  • Pause images: People sensitive to rapid animations can automatically pause images with moving elements like GIFs in apps like Messages and Safari.

Perks for Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Global Accessibility Awareness Day is observed on May 18. To honor the occasion, Apple will publish a curated selection of apps and entertainment in its content stores. Physical stores like Apple Carnegie Library will feature a Today at Apple session with sign language performer and interpreter Justina Miles.

A new “Remember This” action in the Shortcuts app will help those with cognitive disabilities “create a visual diary in Notes for easy reference and reflection.” It could also tie in with Apple’s rumored journaling app.

Apple Podcasts will host shows about the impact of accessible technology. The TV app will feature movies and shows curated by notable storytellers from the disability community. Apple Books will spotlight similar content but in written form. ASL music videos will be hosted by Apple Music.

Fitness+ will provide ASL content, too, as well as closed captioning in six languages and more. Plus, the App Store will feature three disability community leaders.

Tutorials dealing with accessibility