Blind Apple Engineer Speaks of the Passion and Dedication of Apple’s Accessibility Team

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Over the past day there has been much coverage online of a Mashable article featuring Jordyn Castor, a blind member of Apple’s Accessibility Team.

In the article, Castor speaks passionately about Apple’s deep commitment to accessibility and her own personal journey.

Coming so soon after the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) passed a resolution in which it called Apple’s testing for the accessibility of its products “inadequate”, it’s hard not to suspect that Apple’s press and public relations team has been busy trying to set the record straight - both with the original Mashable article and the many follow-up articles from other mainstream outlets (see for example 9to5Mac, MacRumours and AppleInsider). Even Tim Cook’s Twitter account joined in, tweeting “Proud of our talented team dedicated to providing #accessibility for all users”. It’s also noteworthy that the Mashable article actually mentions the NFB, pointing out that two years ago the organisation said “Apple has done more for accessibility than any other company.”

Regardless of whether this positive and concentrated focus on accessibility was an orchestrated attempt by Apple to indirectly respond to the NFB resolution or if it was simply happenstance, the Mashable article offers an interesting glimpse into Apple’s work to ensure the accessibility of its products and the people involved.

Castor, a 22 year old graduate of Michigan State University, has been blind since birth. In the Mashable article she speaks of being “amazed” by the “immediate accessibility” of an iPad she received for her 17th birthday and that “it raised her passion for tech to another level”.

After speaking with Apple representatives at a job fair, Castor was offered an internship by the company. The Mashable article reports that:

As her internship came to a close, Castor’s skills as an engineer and advocate for tech accessibility were too commanding to let go. She was hired full-time as an engineer on the accessibility design and quality team — a group of people Castor describes as “passionate” and “dedicated.”

Sarah Herrlinger, Senior Manager for Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives at Apple, told Mashable that “a notable part of the company's steps toward accessibility is its dedication to making inclusivity features standard, not specialized”, and that “by being built-in, [these features] are also free. Historically, for the blind and visually impaired community, there are additional things you have to buy or things that you have to do to be able to use technology.” Herrlinger also explained how it’s important to have a good team working on accessibility features because “accessibility is something that is never-ending.”

With major releases of iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS due this fall and promising new accessibility features - and many of us also wanting to see some accessibility-related bugs fixed along the way - Apple’s Accessibility Team has ample opportunity to further demonstrate its passion and dedication.

We would strongly encourage you to read the full article on Mashable, as it’s an interesting and rare insight into Apple’s Accessibility Team.

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Submitted by Ekaj on Monday, July 11, 2016

I just read this article and love it, although Mashable's site is rather cluttered it seems. I'm going to tweet it out for my job. But I'm so happy to now call myself an Apple customer even if I only have 2 of their products, one of which doesn't even need to be accessible itself if you really think about it. I'm referring to the SuperDrive that my brother-in-law recently gave me for Xmas. But anyway, thank you Jordyn and everyone else on the accessibility team. Thank you Apple for realizing that those of us with disabilities want to use your products just the same as others do.

Submitted by Greg Wocher on Monday, July 11, 2016

Hello all,
I do have an issue with this article. It focuses only on a blind engineer at Apple. What about the blind engineer's at Microsoft, Google and Amazon. Apple is not the only company with Blind engineers on an accessibility team. Also what about all the blind engineers at smaller companies. Don't get me wrong Apple has done a great job in putting accessibility into their products but their not the only ones. The other companies and their engineers deserve recognition too.

Greg Wocher

Submitted by Michael on Tuesday, July 12, 2016

In regards to Greg's comment, I think the article focuses on Apple for the sole purpose of convincing people that Apple is dedicated to accessibility. With the NFB's recent resolution, I think it is important to point out Apple's dedication to this matter.

Submitted by DPinWI on Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I'm old enough to remember an Apple that was not dedicated to accessibility. It is simply false to make it sound like the company was founded on accessible principles. I appreciate Apple's efforts, but bristle a little at the white washing of some very inaccessible product cycles.

I don't mean this to take away from the great technology I use every day thanks to Apple. I am just commenting on the article's assertion that this is the way it has been since the dawn of time.

Submitted by Toonhead on Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I think it's great to see this article posted in a mainstream publication, because it shows the uninitiated that yes, blind people really* do use Apple's products, and are viable members of society. You would not believe how many sighted people there are who think that blind people need help with everything we do. I actually had someone ask me if someone types everything out for me. Sighted people really do need to be better educated about this, so it's really good to see someone who is blind in the spotlight instead of getting aced out as usual.