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Accessibility in iOS 9

Contributed by Joel Zimba, Special Projects Coordinator, MDTAP

Apple released the latest version of their operating system for their mobile devices, iOS 9.0.  It was quickly followed by iOS 9.0.1—the current release. There are lots of little fixes, like the ability to use Siri voices for the speech output in VoiceOver, and Braille text entry working much better.  However, there is one huge feature which deserves a bit of attention.

An item called “Text Selection” can now be added to the rotary.  This control works a bit differently from most, but it’s definitely worth exploring.  After turning to “Text Selection,” flicking up or down will cycle through character, word, line or page.  There is even a “Select All” option.

Once you settle upon the desired text unit, swiping to the right will select successive units.  Swiping to the left will unselect.  Note that you must be at the beginning of the text to be selected.  It has been suggested that this functionality should be changed to mimic that of the arrow keys when selecting—meaning the selection can expand from either right or left, and swiping the opposite way will unselect.  Look for this change to come in the near future.

This seems convenient, but why is it such a big deal?  The best part about this new method of text selection is that it works nearly everywhere.  Any webpage for example.  No longer is text selection limited to edit fields.  It is now trivial to select a few words on a page in Safari and copy them into a new Google search.

As an aside, wanting to do just that is how I came to use an excellent and highly accessible app called Workflow.  In under a minute, I wrote a Workflow which appears on the “Share Sheet.”  It takes the contents of the clipboard and searches for it.  While a Workflow tutorial may be beyond the scope of this blog post, I hope to discuss it here in the future.  Workflow has often been cited as an example of an app whose author has done a remarkable job with accessibility.

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