Apple Patents Graphical Interface For The Visually Impaired


Apple was granted a patent on Tuesday related to a GUI modified for disabled users of iOS devices and MacBooks.

Entitled “Devices, Methods & GUI’s for Accessibility using a Touch-Sensitive Surface,” the patent describes several methods for allowing a person with impaired vision to use a touch-sensitive surface, including a touch screen display or a track pad.

The patent contains many of the tools Apple has been working on under its Accessibility functionality, which debuted with iOS 3.0 in 2009.

The patent document begins by noting that the increasing ubiquity of touch devices proves a challenge to blind or partially-sighted users, but that Apple is confident that it has come up with a solution.

It then describes several ways in which its interface can adapt to be suitable for blind or partially-sighted users, such as recognizing non-location based gestures that would build on Apple’s Multi Touch technology, or easily magnifying certain parts of the screen to make them easier to read.

Apple points out that while the technology could apply to blind users, it could just as easily be used by sighted users who want to control their Apple device without looking at the screen.

The “Devices, Methods & GUI’s for Accessibility using a Touch-Sensitive Surface” patent names iOS Accessibility gurus Eric Seymour and Chris Fleizach as its co-inventors. It was filed September 23, 2009.

  • serrebi

    Hope Apple doesn’t start going after competitors who already, or future implement something close to Voice Over gestures… Seriously people it’s just shortcut commands at the end of the day. Lets start incurring Google to care so we have a good competitor to Voice Over, not scare them with lawsuits when they make a user experience on an accessible touch screen work. That’s all I’m saying. If everyone had to use these devices like a blind person, the two systems would be much similar I’m sure like stock android vs iOS is for sited people.

  • Jonathan Hassell

    Last Thursday I was asking people at the CSUN-14 disability technology conference whether they thought Tim Cook’s “when we work on making our devices accessible for the blind I don’t consider the b****y ROI” indicated Apple were doing it for ethical, legal or innovation reasons. I always thought it was mostly for innovation.

    This article’s line “Apple points out that while the technology could apply to blind users, it could just as easily be used by sighted users who want to control their Apple device without looking at the screen.” kind of gives the game away as innovation.

    You can find this discussion in my ‘7 signs of maturing in accessibility and innovation’ slideshare:

    Good on Apple for having the foresight (in 2009) to think that innovations for disabled people could have benefits for everyone else too.

    And it’s great to see this innovation strategy creating mainstream enablers like Apple CarPlay, which works via Siri (based on voice recognition that people who can’t use their arms or hands having been using for access for years) and VoiceOver (based on text to speech that people with vision and reading have been using for access).

    Great reporting. Thanks for this!

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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