Apple tech would help disabled use iOS devices

Company files a patent application that outlines a way to connect accessories to touch-screen devices.

Boonsri Dickinson
Boonsri Dickinson is a multimedia journalist who covers science, technology, and start-ups. She is a contributing editor at CBS SmartPlanet, and her work has appeared in Wired, New Scientist, Technology Review, and Discover magazine. E-mail Boonsri.
Boonsri Dickinson
2 min read

Screenshot by Boonsri Dickinson/CNET

As consumer technology begins including features that let the disabled express themselves, the cost of access to assistive technologies has gone down significantly, from thousands of dollars to the price of a tablet.

For instance, the BBC reports that a patient with locked-in syndrome lost his ability to speak, so he uses an Apple computer and an Android phone to communicate.

While touch-screen devices are popular, they're still limiting--especially in cases when the disabled person can't type on the virtual keyboard.

Apple may soon get around this touch-screen issue.

In a recent patent application, the company outlined a method for hooking up iOS devices to accessories. A person could, for example, use a joystick to control an iOS device. Or a visually impaired individual could "see" the screen using a braille attachment. The accessories would be linked to the touch-screen device via a wireless connection or a physical one.

The method could be standardized, to make it usable with any device no matter the screen size. The protocol would also likely extend Apple's VoiceOver feature, which uses voice commands to help the blind as well as the dyslexic navigate iOS devices.

Disabled users can push innovation and drive designers toward solutions that make interacting with machines much easier. For instance, software developer Nuance Communications invented a voice command to give the disabled the ability to type on a PC, but now those mathematical models are used in Amazon's Kindle reader and Ford Motor cars as well.

Patents, hiring data, and acquisitions suggest that voice recognition may be integrated into iOS 5.

(Via Patently Apple.)

Related stories
Apple files patent application to learn the sound of your voice
Apple applies for patent to keep screens fingerprint-less