Accessibility Features for Apple and Android Devices: Part 1 of 4 - "Door Detection"

This article originally appeared in the November 2022 edition of Inside Equal Access. 



Doug Flower


Tools of The Trade

Welcome to a new Tools of the Trade series: Accessibility Features for Apple and Android Devices! In this series, we’ll dive into some of the new and innovative accessibility features coming to your favorite phones. Whether you’re Team Apple or Team Android, you’re sure to find a feature here that piques your interest and gets you thinking about accessibility in a whole new way.

In this month’s article, we’ll be looking at the first of a new set of accessibility features added in IOS 16 for Apple phones: “Door Detection”.

Let’s jump in!

A recent blog post on Medium by author Maddalena Zampitelli sings the praises of Apple – a company that takes designing and developing for users with disabilities seriously. IOS 16, which was released on September 12th, is the most recent operating system for Apple iPhones, and with it comes a host of new accessibility features designed to assist users with disabilities and provide a more inclusive experience. The six most impressive of these new features are highlighted in Zampitelli’s Medium post, titled “6 Accessibility features in iOS 16 we can’t ignore as designers”.

Let’s take a closer look at the first of these new features, “Door Detection,” and explore what it means for accessibility in greater detail.

Accessibility Feature #1 - Door Detection

On its own, the Magnifier app allows you to use your iPhone as a magnifying glass to zoom in on objects near you. You can use this app to detect people, objects, and scenes around you with Detection Mode and Image Descriptions.

With iOS 16 comes "Door Detection," a new add-on feature for the Magnifier app.

Door Detection, as described by Zampitelli, “helps people who are blind or have low vision find doors when they get to their destination.” It can tell you:

  • How far away a door is
  • If it's open or closed
  • How to open it (push it, turn the knob, pull the handle, etc.)
  • What any signs say (such as room numbers)
  • What symbols mean (such as people icons for restrooms)
  • And more

To accomplish this, the application uses a lidar scanner built into newer iPhone and iPad models. Lidar, for those who don’t know, is an acronym for "light detection and ranging" or "laser imaging, detection, and ranging". It’s used to make high-resolution maps in surveying and geography and is also used in control and navigation in autonomous cars. It’s high-tech stuff!

Lidar point cloud of a street intersection in San Francisco, captured by a lidar camera mounted on a moving car.

What Door Detection means for accessibility

Advanced GPS and waypointing features – whether it’s an interactive map stored on your phone or a car that drives itself – continue to bridge the gap between the digital world and the real world. And nothing can be quite as scary or as intimidating as trying to find something in an area you’re unfamiliar with, especially if you’re someone with low or no vision.

Designing content that’s easy to find and intuitive to navigate might sound easy, but it’s far from it. Obstacles such as overly complex design or unclear instructions can create a burden on cognitive load and impede the ability to process and complete tasks.

Alternatively, “The best user experience is the one the user doesn’t notice. It appears smooth and simple on the surface, but hundreds of crucial design decisions have been made to guide, entertain and prevent trouble.” (Article: Reducing Cognitive Overload for a Better User Experience)

As designers, we need to ensure that our physical and digital spaces are easy to find and navigate. When designing content, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are my instructions clear, concise, and easy to follow?
  • Are the titles of my web pages, documents, and course descriptions descriptive?
  • Am I using color contrast and layouts that make my content easy to read?
  • Am I adequately conveying the 5 W's (Who, What, When, Where, Why) when communicating information about events or meetings?

Want to add “Door Detection”-like accessibility features to make your own content easier to find and navigate? Check out our Creating Accessibile Marketing Guide! Whether you’re working with event web pages, promotional videos, or digital displays, we have helpful tips and resources to help take the accessibility of your digital marketing to the next level.

And please join us in the next Tools of the Trade segment as we look at another great accessibility feature coming to IOS 16: “Live Captions”.

POSTED: Wednesday, November 9, 2022 04:47 PM
Updated: Wednesday, October 4, 2023 02:33 PM
Doug Flower