Biz / Tech

Upgraded services for people with disabilities

Zhu Shenshen
On Global Accessibility Awareness Day, tech giants Apple, Huawei and Microsoft announce a number of offerings designed to make life easier for disabled communities.
Zhu Shenshen

Apple, Huawei and Microsoft announced software services and updates for people with disabilities on Thursday, Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

A policy to improve and upgrade accessibility and services for disability groups takes effect in Shanghai in June. 

Digital technologies can play a critical role in bridging barriers to communication, interaction and information, covering new services on smartphones, computers, smart homes and digital entertainment.

Apple has announced various software features designed for people with mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive disabilities. Most can also work in elderly care.

Later this year, people with limb problems will be able to use an Apple watch with AssistiveTouch. iPads will support third-party eye-tracking hardware for easier control. For blind and low-vision communities, Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader will use on-device intelligence to explore objects within images. Apple’s MFI program (made for iPhone/iPod/iPad) will soon support new bi-directional hearing aids.

Apple China has hired people with vision and hearing difficulties at Apple Stores in Shanghai and Suzhou. They offer training and services for disabled users and elderly people. Apple has also joined with Chinese app developer Changba to offer services for blind people to sing. 

Huawei is offering AI-featured voice recognition and substitute functions for people with difficulties. It provides a “screen sharing” function, which allows people to help aged parents set up smartphones remotely.

Currently, Huawei has 15 functions designed for special groups which are used 10 million times a month, the company said on Thursday.

Microsoft is focusing on barrier-free technologies used in the workplace. It recently announced a five-year plan to create more opportunities for people with disabilities.

The company said it will focus on three aspects to expand accessibility in technology, the workforce and the workplace.

Shanghai is establishing itself as an international digital hub as the city’s strategy target. It covers developing digital tools specifically for elderly care, according to city officials.

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