Face ID Accessibility. Apple offers some answers
As discussed in The Blind Side Podcast episode 53, Apple today made a series of hardware announcements.
Understandably, the announcement that has caused the most social media chatter in the blind community relates to the iPhone X, and it’s new Face ID feature.
Apple has earned our trust over the years by ensuring that its products are fully accessible from their initial launch, so few observers were in any doubt that Apple would have given thought to the accessibility of this new feature. However, were there limitations of the technology that simply made it a non-starter for some people?
I wrote to Apple, and quickly received a response to some of my initial questions.
My questions stem from the fact that I am congenitally blind. My particular eye condition causes my eyes to look small and a little sunken, and they are often closed. Further, I have a form of congenital cataracts. I was curious to know whether Face ID would work for someone like me and others I know with prosthetic eyes, given that during the keynote, Apple indicated that the iPhone X would not unlock unless you gave the phone your attention.
Apple says the following.
The iPhone X has been designed with a number of accessibility features to support its use.
For VoiceOver users, Face ID will prompt you as to how to move your head during set up in order to complete a scan. If you do not want Face ID to require attention, you can open Settings > General > Accessibility, and disable Require Attention for Face ID. This is automatically disabled if you enable VoiceOver during initial set up.
I also took the opportunity to ask about the new method for toggling accessibility settings. One can’t triple-click the Home button on the iPhone X, because there is no Home button. It appears one triple-clicks the Side button. This button is larger on the iPhone X than previous models of iPhone to reflect the many functions it now performs.
I would observe that one will have to be careful with this feature, since pressing the same button five times will activate iOS 11’s emergency SOS function, and may, depending on how you’ve configured that feature, make a call to local emergency services.
I’m impressed that Apple had clearly anticipated someone like me having questions about my ability to use Face ID, and were able to furnish me with such a clear answer.
Will I be getting an iPhone X? Almost certainly, for business reasons. There will be plenty of interest in setting up and using Face ID, and I’ll be publishing a free update to “iOS 11 Without the Eye” for everyone who has already purchased it, with iPhone X-related information once the phone is released on 3 November.
Would I get one otherwise? I don’t think I would. Given that I’m totally blind and don’t need to see the screen, I don’t need to look at my phone. And because I don’t need to look at my phone, I often keep it in my pocket, unlocking it with Touch ID while the phone is still in my pocket so I can use it. I realise that my use case is very rare so I can’t blame Apple for not catering to it, but it’s a wee convenience I will miss.
And apart from being able to train people on the use of Face ID, I don’t see too many advantages for me as a blind person over the iPhone 8, or even the current 7 Plus I have.
How about you? Now that the big reveal is all official, how are you feeling about the new devices, and especially the iPhone X with it’s Face ID?
Share your thoughts in the comments.