WWDC 2023 Accessibility Goodies for Developers

This year, Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) was a big deal! Among the many announcements this year, Apple introduced the new Apple Vision Pro headset which has arguably and understandably stolen the show this year.  Although Vision Pro may be the big talk of the town post-WWDC, there was also a myriad of exciting new reveals in Apple hardware and software.

Among the many announcements, the accessibility updates are one of my favorite parts of WWDC every year, and this year there were quite a few accessibility updates to the Apple ecosystem that will provide developers with new tools to help make their apps accessible.  Get the scoop on this year’s accessibility updates below!

Apple Vision Pro

The brand-new Apple Vision Pro headset was by far one of the show’s biggest stars this year.  According to Apple, the headset will be compatible with the platform’s pre-existing assistive technologies like VoiceOver and that a lot of the same accessibility features available in other products will be available on the VisionPro headset but reimagined specifically for spatial computing.  The details on VisionPro accessibility are extremely limited, but we hope that with its release the device will indeed prove to be accessible.

Assistive Access

Assistive Access is a brand-new assistive technology for cognitive disabilities. This technology allows iPhone and iPad to only display features the user wants, which greatly reduces the cognitive load on the user. For example, if a user only wants to use the phone, photos and messages assistive access can be set up to only have those apps available on their device.

A tablet and iPhone with Assistive Access table layout activated

Assistive Access allows customization not only for app availability, but also for specific features with apps; for example, if a user only wants to communicate with words the emoji keyboard can be removed from the messages app, leaving only the text keyboard.

iPhone with assistive access keyboard with emoji reactions

When assistive access is enabled, the device layout is replaced with one of two layouts: a grid-like layout where all of the apps are arranged in a grid, and each app’s image is more prominent than the text, or a row-based layout that lays out apps more like a list with the icon and text at equal prominence. Assistive access can be enabled and customized in settings.

Accessibility Audits

Developers can now perform accessibility audits for their app on every build right in Xcode.  Although Xcode’s accessibility inspector has an accessibility audit functionality, it is a manual process. Furthermore, the results of an audit are displayed in the accessibility inspector, causing a lot of going back and forth between the inspector and Xcode when remediating issues…the process definitely has room for improvement.

Now that Xcode has the ability to perform accessibility audits, the process is streamlined, automated, and efficient. A developer can perform accessibility audits right from UI tests, and no assertions are needed because if any issues are found in the audit the test fails. The results from an accessibility audit are easy to understand, with failures displayed inline along with a description, and additional details are provided in the report navigator.

Below is a code sample demonstrating how to perform an accessibility audit in a UI test.

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