The people at Apple believe that accessibility isn’t just about having “accessibility options for people with disabilities” – you don’t need to have a disability to benefit from accessibility features.
Well, disability activists and disability groups have been trying to make this point for a long time that making infrastructure accessible doesn’t just benefit persons with disabilities, it benefits all.
Coming back to Apple and accessibility, according to this TechCrunch report, during this year’s WWDC keynote, the moot point of Apple’s presentation was that the company is focused on making its software more accessible than ever before. From Apple iWatch to Siri coming to the Mac to the Apple Store to iMessage to basically every app that is available on the Apple ecosystem, it’s the accessibility that dominates the dialogue.
Features have been built into the basic operating system platform to give tools and features to users as well as app developers in order to create accessible apps and features in all available Apple devices like computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones.
Aside from these, many new features are being added this year like a new pronunciation editor in VoiceOver on iOS 10 and tvOS. There is Taptic Time in watchOS 3 that uses Apple Watche’s haptic feedback to tell a VoiceOver user the time when audio alerts wouldn’t be possible or appropriate.
How many companies would think of persons with disabilities when developing health apps? Apple does. There is a wheelchair fitness feature in watchOS 3 that helps you monitor your physical activities while being in a wheelchair. According to the TechCrunch writer, “That the company went to such lengths to study wheelchair fitness, developed algorithms for measuring movement, and implement it into the watch is so quintessentially Apple.”
The Magnifier feature in iOS 10 uses your camera in your iPhone and iPad for magnifying objects that you find difficult to see. For example, the labels on medicine bottles are quite difficult to read, so small are the fonts. You can use the Magnifier feature of your iPhone or iPad to direct the camera at the label and see what’s written over there.
Apple has also incorporated Software TTY into iOS 10. TTY is a technology that enables hearing-impaired and those who cannot speak use telephone to communicate. It’s a hardware device that allows people with hearing and speech impairment to exchange typewritten text messages. In iOS 10 there is no need for additional TTY hardware, the capability is built within the iPhone.
It makes me think, the instant messaging apps in mobile phones must be a boon to people with hearing and speech impairment because now there is no need to make phone calls. The writer of the TechCrunch post says that the TTY software feature in iOS 10 might be a game changer but I don’t think so. I think it’s the instant messaging apps, especially these days when Wi-Fi is so easily available and even if Wi-Fi is not available, mobile data packages are so affordable, that are game changers for people with hearing and speech impairment.
It’s not just apps and hardware where Apple is focusing on accessibility, even when it comes to coding and programming they don’t want to ignore accessibility for persons with disabilities. For example, Swift Playgrounds is an environment where small kids can learn to program. This environment is also totally accessible.