Apple redesigns accessibility site with tips for people with vision, hearing, other disabilities

iPhone 12 People Detection

Apple’s People Detection feature on the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max can notify a user who as low vision about people who are approaching. 

James Martin/CNET

Apple wants to make it easier for people with disabilities to discover accessibility features on their iPhones, iPads and Macs and to figure out how to customize their devices to better suit their needs. The gadget maker launched a redesign of its accessibility website,, to highlight its efforts.

The revamped site, announced Thursday, is organized around four areas: vision, mobility, hearing and cognition, and it gives tips about dozens of features that Apple has built for its various devices. Along with the sprucing up, Apple Support is releasing a new collection of videos on its YouTube channel that show how to use some of the company’s latest accessibility features. 

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That includes offerings like Apple’s Magnifier feature, which is designed to make it easier for people with low vision to see items, using their iPhones. The Back Tap feature is meant to make it fast and simple to trigger actions or accessibility shortcuts with a double or triple tap on the back of the phone. And Voice Control lets users with severe physical motor limitations control their Macs, iPhones or iPads entirely with their voices. 

The latest Apple accessibility feature for users who are blind or low vision is People Detection on the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. It uses the new lidar sensor on the back of the phones to detect how close other people are, letting you do things like avoid others in a grocery store aisle. 

Apple’s website redesign comes as the world grapples with the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 64 million people and killed nearly 1.5 million. Some people with disabilities may be at higher risk of getting sick, but they’re also dealing with issues related to lockdowns. People can’t go to their normal therapy sessions or meet with their special education teachers. They may feel isolated or lack the services they normally require. Their caregivers, many of whom are holding down their full-time jobs from home, also become teachers for their children, whether they’re qualified or not. 

Technology could be a way to help people with disabilities during the pandemic. In the past, people with special needs had to shell out thousands of dollars for technology that magnified their computer screens, spoke navigation directions, identified their money and recognized the color of their clothes. Today, users need only smartphones, computers and a handful of apps and accessories to help them get through their physical and online worlds.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a quarter of Americans live with some sort of disability. Apple’s site redesign coincides with International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Apple has made accessibility a focus for decades. It builds features into its technology to help people with low vision navigate the iPhone’s touch screen and allow people with motor impairments to virtually tap on interface icons. Four years ago, Apple kicked off one of its flashy product launches by talking about accessibility and showing off its new, dedicated site.

The site launch in 2016 was an effort by Apple to focus more on how people with special needs were using its technology instead of highlighting just the features themselves. “Technology should be accessible to everyone,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the time. 

In May of this year, Apple launched a dedicated Apple Care support team for people with disabilities. It also extended its education discount to faculty, staff and homeschoolers working with students of all grade levels who are enrolled in special education or assistive services at their school. 

And Apple this year has highlighted accessibility-focused apps in the App Store and featured video tutorials on its YouTube page. Before the crop of new videos, Apple had more than 20 how-to posts related to accessibility features. 

Correction at 9:35 a.m. PT: The redesign was released Thursday.

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