Like many other Apple fans, I recently upgraded to an iPhone 7 Plus! I was excited about all the new features, like the better camera, better performance, new home button, and stereo speakers. However, once I started setting it up, I found some wonderful new accessibility surprises.

Note:, These are not necessarily designed as accessibility features, but any feature which makes the hardware or software easier for people to use is a form of accessibility.

Let’s start with the new home button. As you may have heard, it is a capacitive home button on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. This means, there is no mechanical switch underneath. Instead, it measures force, and uses haptic feedback to simulate a button press.

Great, but how is this an accessibility feature?

One example of how the new home button improves accessibility is in that it cannot be pressed if the phone is off. That’s right. It doesn’t move at all! This is a new way for people who cannot see the screen to check if their phone has powered off or not.

Although I have usable vision, I have found this useful when updating my phone. It helps to know if the phone is off or just sitting on a dark screen.

Another great thing about the new home button is it does not require as much force to press it. This means anyone who has difficulty pressing hardware buttons can remove the home button from their assistive touch menu.

Lastly, an accessibility feature provided by the new home button is that it can be accessed by developers. I am not yet sure what this will look like, but it has the potential to be very useful for everyone.

The second new feature that opens up new possibilities when it comes to accessibility is the System Haptics toggle in Sounds and Haptics.

This means you will literally be able to feel when you perform certain actions. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Pull down Notification Center.
  • Access Control Center.
  • Toggle a switch on or off.
  • Move through a table index.
  • Reorder items in a list.
  • Swipe to delete mail.
  • Interact with a picker.
  • Zoom in or out of a photo
  • Tap and hold to react to an iMessage.
  • Send or receive a message with effects.

I encountered haptic feedback while setting up my new iPhone, and it really was a wonderful experience.

Being a low vision user, sometimes, my aim is off and I don’t tap the toggle switches exactly, and nothing happens. Now I will know immediately if I missed or hit my target. This is also great for users whose hands shake as they will have immediate feedback when an action is performed correctly.

It’s also a joy to feel the selection change in a picker or to feel the other elements you are moving over when reordering a list. It is very helpful to me, and I believe others will find it a wonderful experience as well.

Personally, I feel this is the very beginning of what is to come, and this makes me very excited! I cannot wait to see the changes to System Haptics as the feature matures and Apple does more with it.

Note: Some haptic feedback does not occur when VoiceOver is enabled. We hope this issue is resolved soon.

What do you think? Do you have an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus? What is your favorite new feature! Let us know!