With Apple having announced this year's WWDC, it's time to start getting excited about what the next version of iOS will bring. Macworld has been compiling lists of features we'd like to see, covering (so far) Notification Center, Mail, Calendar and Reminders, and Photos and Camera.
Personally, all this speculation has me focusing on what iOS 8 might mean for the accessibility community. If you believe what Jony Ive said about iOS 7 "defining a new direction" and being "the next step," then iOS 8 stands to give more clarity to Apple's vision for its mobile operating system.
Since iOS 7 debuted last September, I've spent much time — both writing and on the air — talking about the accessibility ramifications, good and bad, of iOS 7's visual redesign. My feelings towards it are mostly mixed, as there are several elements of iOS 7 that are markedly worse when it comes to accessibility than in previous iOS versions — for example, buttons. On the other hand, there are also things that are markedly improved over earlier versions — for example Larger Dynamic Type. But it's time to look ahead to iOS 8, and to point out the accessibility issues that I hope Apple addresses.
Refine interface enhancements
The best way to describe my love/hate relationship with iOS 7's design would be that it leans too far away from the hyper-realism of iOS 6. iOS 7 is opinionated to the extreme, and I strongly believe Apple would do well to dial it back — to find a happier medium between the disparate design ideologies. As a person with low vision, I've found iOS 7 to be more difficult to use due to its penchant for lower-contrast icons and text labels used as buttons. So there are a few things Apple could do to make iOS 7's UI more visually accessible.
Bring back real buttons. iOS 7's button design is, without a doubt, my biggest beef with the new design. It takes what appear to be untappable bits of text and turns them into web-link-like buttons. While a case can certainly be made that Apple took off the training wheels, so to speak, with iOS 7's button design (for example, by doing away with the obvious Back button), this design decision was decidedly more aesthetic than functional.
In accessibility terms, there are two problems with this "buttonless" interface. First, there are no borders or shadowing, which can be problematic when trying to differentiate between the content of an app and its controls. Second, this lack of definition makes it difficult for those with vision impairments to say, Oh, I can tap this, because so many buttons, system-wide, appear to simply be text or text labels.
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