Apple's new accessibility features will let you control an iPhone or iPad with your eyes

Coming to an array of apps - including Apple Music, CarPlay, and iOS - the new accessibility features will be available 'later this year.' Here's a rundown of what's coming to iPhone and iPad users.
Written by Don Reisinger, Contributing Writer
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With the global Accessibility Awareness Day just a day away, Apple has unveiled new accessibility features across its app ecosystem to help users engage with its software in new ways.

The tech giant said on Wednesday that new accessibility features are coming to an array of apps, including Apple Music, CarPlay, and Apple's iOS operating system. While Apple said the features will become available "later this year," the company stopped short of saying exactly when iPhone and iPad owners would have access to them. Instead, the company touted the features as critical in making its software available to a broader base of users.

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"These new features will make an impact in the lives of a wide range of users, providing new ways to communicate, control their devices, and move through the world," Sarah Herrlinger, Apple's senior director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives, said in a statement.

Read on for a look at some of the new accessibility features coming to Apple hardware this year.

New eye-tracking features

Apple is bringing a new feature to both iOS and iPadOS that will let you navigate your iPhone and iPad with just your eye movements. The feature uses the device's front-facing camera to track your eye movements and let you move through apps. Apple said that its new Eye Tracking feature will work across both its own and third-party apps, and will work with gestures powered solely by eye movements.

Apple Music haptics

For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, Apple plans to offer a Taptic Engine feature in Apple Music. When turned on, the feature will use a series of taps, vibrations, and other tactile responses to sync to a song's audio. Apple says the feature will work "across millions of songs in the Apple Music catalog."

Addressing motion sickness

Motion sickness in cars can often be the result of a disconnect between what you see and what you feel, Apple said in a statement. To address that, the company has unveiled a new feature called Vehicle Motion Cues that will display animated dots on an iPhone's or iPad's screen when a vehicle is in motion.

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"Using sensors built into iPhone and iPad, Vehicle Motion Cues recognizes when a user is in a moving vehicle and responds accordingly," Apple said. "The feature can be set to show automatically on iPhone, or can be turned on and off in Control Center."

Understanding speech

A new feature called Voice Shortcuts will let you "assign custom utterances" that Apple's virtual personal assistant Siri will save. When Siri hears those utterances, it'll perform whatever action was assigned to it, including launching apps or engaging in more complex tasks on the device.

Another feature, Listen for Atypical Speech, will use machine learning to understand your speech patterns and your requests on-device, Apple said. The feature "gives users an option for enhancing speech recognition for a wider range of speech," the company said.

New CarPlay features

Apple's in-car CarPlay software is also getting new accessibility features, including the ability for you to navigate CarPlay and engage with apps using only your voice. A new Sound Recognition feature will display alerts on CarPlay's screen when car horns or sirens go off, and Color Filters will make CarPlay easier to use for colorblind users.

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Some other updates

Beyond those updates, Apple said that it's launching a range of smaller upgrades to improve its software accessibility, including a Magnifier feature when reading content on a device, along with a Hover Typing feature that will enlarge text for low vision users, and a Virtual Trackpad -- for those with physical disabilities -- to use only a small portion of an iPhone or iPad screen to control the software. As with the other features Apple announced, these updates should launch later this year.

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