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iOS 8 changes we'd like to see: Accessibility

Steven Aquino | May 23, 2014
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.

To Apple's credit, iOS 7.1 added a Button Shapes option that, when enabled under the Accessibility options in the Settings app, put a shape around buttons. It's a welcome (re-)addition that attempts to solve the issues with contrast and identification, but it feels like a hacked-on afterthought and belies the elegance of the new aesthetics.

I would rather Apple redraw the buttons so they look like native parts of the UI. Specifically, Apple could take some of the design cues of segmented controls (such as those as seen in the Top Charts section of the App Store) and modify them to work as general navigational controls. Even those thin lines provide enough contrast (for me, anyway) to be able to distinguish buttons from normal text — and I think such an implementation would look nicer than Button Shapes does today.

Make all share sheet icons obvious. iOS's share sheet — the popover that provides options for sharing content — contains familiar app icons for Messages, Mail, Twitter, and Facebook, but the non-app-specific actions in the bottom row (Bookmark, Copy, Open In, Print, and the like) are barely discernible. The white-and-gray glyphs of these icons use far too little contrast, which, for people with low vision, makes identifying these options extremely difficult — and, thus, not at all accessible. Apple should take a cue from the Settings app, where every major function is denoted by colorized icon preceding a text label, and apply that style to the share sheet

Restore some texture and shadowing. Say what you will about skeuomorphism, but it's my strong opinion that the design of iOS 6 and before were underrated in one major area: accessibility. There was a lot that the "classic" iOS did right in making the user interface accessible for the visually impaired (even if not always intentionally). For example, button design and iconography stood out, making it much easier to navigate throughout the system. In this respect, iOS 6's glitz and heavy polish was a benefit for users like me who do better with big, bold buttons and the like.

With iOS 8, I hope we see a bit more more texture and shadowing in the interface. When it comes to accessibility, iOS 7 went a few toes over the line. Apple would do right to find a balance between 6 and 7.

Clean up the accessibility options

You don't have to be visually impaired to have had issues with iOS 7's design. In response to criticism levied by customers, Apple added several options to the Accessibility section of the Settings app to placate those with usability concerns. While those settings were welcome, the result is that the Accessibility section has become bloated and a bit unwieldy to navigate.


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