An Apple director has said that the iPad’s upcoming mouse support is likely to have uses that go beyond making the iPad more accessible to people with disabilities. In an interview with TechCrunch, Apple’s director of Global Accessibility Policy & Initiatives, Sarah Herrlinger, said “Accessibility features can benefit more than the original community they were designed to support,” before referencing closed captions as an example of a widely used feature that was originally meant for the hard of hearing.
Mouse support on the iPad is a frequently-requested feature, especially since Apple has billed its latest iPad Pros as replacements for a traditional laptop. Apple might supply keyboard-equipped covers for the tablets, but users still have to touch their finger to the screen for any mouse-style commands rather than having a touchpad that’s within easy reach of the keyboard. The addition of mouse support, even as an accessibility feature, has us wondering what hardware might be coming in the fall, either this year or next, especially as the feature evolves.
Herrlinger is keen to emphasize that mouse support, which has apparently been years in the making, is tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, who wouldn’t be able to use an iPad otherwise. The functionality lives within the AssistiveTouch menu in iPadOS and iOS 13, but the devices are still very much meant to be touch-based. As Herrlinger says, “This is not your old desktop cursor as the primary input method.”
Mouse support isn’t the only accessibility feature Apple announced at its developer’s conference this year. The next version of macOS, Catalina, was announced with full support for voice controls, allowing users to control a Mac without needing to touch a keyboard or mouse.