Accessible Apple: The 12 Requests of Christmas...Day 13

The flag of Ukraine. Wikimedia Commons. 

The flag of Ukraine. Wikimedia Commons. 

Today is the day Christmas is celebrated in Ukraine and several other countries around the world. In honour of Ukrainian Christmas, we have one final request to round out this year, making this the thirteenth and final post in our annual 12-part (usually!) series covering the accessibility features we would like to see Apple bring to its products in the coming year.

This series is being put together by Accessibility Editor Alex Jurgensen, with the help of several contributors.

For the thirteenth request of Christmas, we ask Apple to give to us:

13. Ukrainian Text to Speech Voices for all Apple Devices


When Apple introduced the original Macintosh in 1984, it let the computer introduce itself, using a synthesized voice to do so (view the video above). The technology, known as text to speech, converts strings of text into spoken words and has shipped with every Mac ever produced. It has since been incorporated into the full range of Apple’s iPods, iPhones, iPads, Macs, Apple Watches, and Apple TVs. The feature has been a core component for blind and partially sighted users of Apple devices for years and is often the only output they rely upon to operate their Apple devices. The voices have also found their way into Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant.

Since the initial release of VoiceOver for iOS in 2009, Apple has partnered with Nuance to bring multi-lingual text to speech voices to its platforms. Each platform has a different set of voices available, with the Mac boasting the largest number and the Apple Watch the smallest.

One text to speech language that is missing from all of Apple’s platforms is Ukrainian. Apple initially added support for Ukrainian speech to text in iOS 8 and Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite, meaning users could have spoken words converted into text. However, text to speech support has not yet been added. This may be due to Apple waiting on Nuance to ship a Ukrainian voice, as this job posting would suggest.

If Apple is already working on adding Ukrainian text to speech to its platforms, we eagerly await the day when the implementation ships. If not, we ask Apple to ensure Ukrainian voices get added to all of its devices. Apple could accomplish this by porting an existing voice to their platforms, such as the free UkrVoxNewFon or the commercially available offerings from CyberMova. Alternately, Apple could either dedicate resources to create its own voice, like it did with the Alex voice in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, or commission a voice through a company like Nuance. Regardless of the approach taken, Apple is a large enough company that can ensure Ukrainian speakers everywhere get a Ukrainian voice for use with Siri and accessibility-related applications.

If Apple does include a Ukrainian voice to its platforms, it will take one step closer to providing accessibility to all.

Bonus: To listen to a conversation between CyberMova voices Opanas (Panas) and Natalka, click here. CyberMova also has two other male voices, Dmytro and Sviatoslav (Slava).

This Year's "12 Requests of Christmas" were:

12. Some Good Old Bug Fixes

11. A Customizable Rotor for VoiceOver Navigation in macOS

10. Relay Support for Assistive Technology Peripherals

9. The Ability to Use the Enhanced Siri Voices in macOS with VoiceOver

8. A System-wide Spellchecker in iOS

7. An Enhanced Spellchecker for macOS

6. A Rewritten "Activities" System for VoiceOver on the Mac

5. A Reimplementation of the Classic Mac Startup Chime

4. Braille Display and Keyboard Support for the Apple TV

3. A Free USB Type C to USB Type A Dongle

2. 6-Key Braille Input for macOS

1. A New Speech Manager