Accessibility improvements in Windows 11 and iOS 16 show promise for the future

We’ve recently seen Microsoft and Apple bring out major updates to its operating systems, including Windows 11 and iOS 16, and one of the big tentpole features for both is, finally, accessibility.

The topic isn’t just limited to one aspect – from web accessibility to visual accessibility, there are features on your PC or iPhone that have been there for years, but you may have never been aware of them.

Windows 11’s 2022 update expands upon this category however, with live captions across the operating system, alongside more natural-sounding voices for narration and text-to-speech.

On the other end of the spectrum, Apple is using AR in certain accessibility features in iOS 16 to better tell how far a door is in a house, for example. All of this builds on a promise to the next generation of users with hearing and visual impairments, and what could be next.

For a more accessible age

(Image credit: Apple)

Both Apple and Microsoft include a dedicated accessibility page that focuses on how every feature can benefit a user, while trying to get rid of the ‘hidden features’ label that’s almost became a stereotype for accessibility in software lately.

Apple has been working with companies such as Guide Dogs UK to bring over 5,000 iPads to its children, while Microsoft has been bringing out a line of accessibility accessories.

But on a software level, you can already try out features such as better narration in Windows 11, or the ability to control nearby Apple devices from your iPhone in iOS 16.

There’s more to be done, as when we spoke to Hector Minto, Accessibility Lead at Microsoft, he told us that the category is never feature-complete; there’s always a user out there needing a different way to fulfill their needs to use a laptop as well as anyone else.

With AR and AI becoming more prevalent, it’s at the point where it’s exciting to see where this can go for accessibility – and coupled with the rumors of an Apple headset and Microsoft’s efforts in the area so far, the foundation for the category is finally solid, and in the coming years, accessibility could be something we’ll see more of at keynotes from both companies, not just as a blogpost.

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