During the past week there has been a series of small reminders of how accessibility sits at the very heart of Apple’s ethos and practice.
The first of these came in one of the videos shown as part of the keynote presentation at last week’s Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC). Featured prominently was a piano app for the iPad being developed by the Ludwig Project, which will seek to bring music to the hearing impaired by enabling them to sense music through vibration.
Shortly after the keynote presentation, the ceremony was held to announce the winners of this year’s Apple Design Awards. These prestigious awards are given to the mobile and desktop apps which Apple believes raise the bar in design, technology and innovation. One of the winners was the Workflow iOS app, which was specifically selected for its outstanding use of iOS accessibility features. Two members of Apple’s Accessibility Team, both of whom are blind themselves, were invited onto stage to demonstrate to the audience just how well the app works with VoiceOver.
For most consumers. interest in the WWDC won’t extend much further than the keynote presentation. However, for the developers attending, the rest of the week provides an opportunity to get an in-depth look at what iOS, OS X and now watchOS can offer. Apple traditionally has more than 1000 of its engineers in attendance, and holds various sessions and labs to help and inform developers.
One strand of that help is to work with developers to ensure that their apps are as accessible as possible. This year, Steven Aquino was granted unprecedented levels of access at WWDC to see this in action. In his TechCrunch article on accessibility at WWDC, he reports that “the accessibility presence at WWDC is deep and far-reaching”, and that “Apple does much to raise awareness of and advocate for the accessibility community.”
The final reminder for now of how Apple regards accessibility comes from it currently featuring on the App Store in the US a collection of popular iOS apps which it says “deliver a great VoiceOver experience to all users”.
These are the apps highlighted by Apple:
- Workflow: Powerful Automation Made Simple
- Twitterrific 5 for Twitter
- Flipboard: Your Social News Magazine
- WhatsApp Messenger
- djay 2 for iPhone
- Transit App: Real Time Bus & Subway Tracker with Offline Schedules
- Papa Sangre II
- BBC News
- Overcast: Podcast Player
- Chase Mobile
- BrainPOP Featured Movie
- Ariadne GPS
- Voice Dream Writer
- Voice Dream Reader
- Voice Dream Mail
Taken individually, everything mentioned above may seem relatively minor. However, when viewed collectively, it demonstrates how embedded accessibility is within the day-to-day ethos and practice at Apple. It’s just what they do.
We would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the iOS apps that Apple chose to include in its featured App Store collection. Did they get it right? What would have been your own choices? Let us know in the comments below.