Apple announces huge accessibility updates — control an iPad using your eyes

iPad Pro
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple is launching a selection of new accessibility features designed for people with mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive disabilities, including a huge iPad update that introduces eye-tracking compatibility.

Set to arrive later this year, users will be able to control their iPad using just their eyes, as Apple will be adding support for third-party eye-tracking devices to iPadOS. An additional perk for those who own any iPad model, from the iPad Pro to the popular iPad Air

As stated in the press release, compatible Made For iPhone (MFi) devices will be able to track where a person is looking, and the pointer will move to follow the person’s gaze. In order to tap, users will just need to keep "extended eye contact" to perform the action. Navigating through an iPad is about to get easier.

That's not all, as Apple revealed a slew of new accessibility features to "bring the fun and function of Apple technology to even more people," senior director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives, Sarah Herrlinger states.

Apple Watch AssistiveTouch

Apple's watchOS is also getting an update to support those with limited mobility by introducing AssistiveTouch. With the new feature, users won't have to touch the display or controls of an Apple Watch.

Using the built-in motion sensors like the Apple Watch's gyroscope and accelerometer, users will be able to control a cursor on the display through hand gestures, like a pinch or a clench. That's something that's been rumored for the AirPods Pro 2, as well. 

Apple SignTime

Kicking off today, Apple has a new service called SignTime which lets users talk to AppleCare and Retail Customer Care using sign language. The good news is the tech giant made it available in different languages.

Using a web browser on their iPhone or at Apple Store locations, users will be able to use American Sign Language (ASL) in the United States, British Sign Language (BSL) in the United Kingdom, or French Sign Language (LSF) in France. More countries will be added down the line. 

Background Sounds

Apple is also adding a new background sounds feature help users that need to focus, stay calm, or rest. There will be various sounds users can choose from, including balanced, bright, or dark noise, along with ocean, rain, or stream sounds.

Used to "mask unwanted environmental noise," the background sounds will play continuously when turned on, with users even being able to use it under other audio and system sounds.

There are many new updates set to arrive this year, including new support for bi-directional hearing aids, display and text size settings that can be customized in each app, new Memojis to represent those with oxygen tubes, cochlear implants, and a soft helmet for headwear; and audiogram support and plenty more.

Apple's new accessibility features celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which takes play on May 20. Check out the full list of what's to come right here

Darragh Murphy

Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from washing machines designed for AirPods to the mischievous world of cyberattacks. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for gadgets into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. With a Master’s degree in Magazine Journalism from The University of Sheffield, along with short stints at Kerrang! and Exposed Magazine, Darragh started his career writing about the tech industry at Time Out Dubai and ShortList Dubai, covering everything from the latest iPhone models and Huawei laptops to massive Esports events in the Middle East. Now, he can be found proudly diving into gaming, gadgets, and letting readers know the joys of docking stations for Laptop Mag.