Accessibility & Technology

Siri, Accessibility & Apple Intelligence

Jun 27, 2024

Siri, Accessibility & Apple Intelligence

Rumors of Siri’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. At the 2024 World Wide Developers Conference, Apple extended a golden life preserver to the iconic voice assistant, finally saving it from years of embarrassment and pledging to grant it a new respectable position. A mea culpa of sorts, if not to Siri, to loyal Siri users everywhere.  The Siri reboot is empowered by Apple Intelligence, including a partnership with ChatGPT. So yes there is a possibility Siri will go rogue, but let’s hope Apple has figured out how to keep it friendly. 

Siri has been a primary accessibility tool, for people with vision loss, since its 2011 launch on Apple iOS. The conventional wisdom was that iPhone users with vision loss would adopt the VoiceOver screen reader, many did, but many more did not. While on staff at the Lighthouse in New York, I encountered a steady stream of inquiries from visually impaired people, and their families, asking for “talking computers.”  It took some time before I realized they were not looking for technology that would talk “to” them, they wanted technology they could talk to.  We may be finally getting closer to a truly conversational and universally accessible solution. 

Maybe, having not rushed into the frenzy, Apple can avoid the pitfalls of competitors, including Google, Microsoft and Open AI itself. Still that is no guarantee of success, but we can wish them well.  At his conference keynote, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook said, “I’m excited that we’ll introduce profound new intelligence capabilities that will inspire developers, delight users and make our platforms more useful than ever.” 

According to Apple, the next generation Siri has a new design and is even more capable and integrated. 

  • With a more extensive knowledge of your device settings, Siri will help you learn new features with step by step directions
  • Richer language understanding, will help Siri be better able to decipher what it is your trying to say
  • Siri will be able to update Contacts
  • Describe a photo or message you’re looking for and Siri will find it

The official website says, Apple Intelligence is “Built into your iPhone, iPad and Mac to help you write, express yourself, and get things done effortlessly.” 

  • Writing tools will proofread, edit and summarize
  • Prioritize time sensitive emails and summarize long messages
  • Record audio from Phone or Notes app and get summary of transcript
  • Smart Reply generates suggested response to emails
  • Create custom Genmoji images

A work in progress, Apple Intelligence is free for users, and will be available in beta as part of iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia this fall in U.S. English.

Watch Apple Intelligence Preview on Youtube

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About the Author: Dorrie Rush

Dorrie Rush is the Chief Content Officer and Visual Accessibility Expert at Ophthalmic Edge Patients (OE Patients), an online resource, presented by the Association for Macular Diseases, providing practical information and empowering advice for living a full and successful life with vision loss.

She is the former Director of the Grunwald Technology Center and Information Resource Service at Lighthouse International 2001 to 2016. Dorrie is known to have an eccentric view, which is particularly useful in compensating for her central vision loss from Stargardt Disease.

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