Apple and Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2017

Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). Now in its sixth year, celebrated the third Thursday in May, GAAD seeks to “get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) access/inclusion and people with different disabilities.” The accessibility community helps spread the word about GAAD on social media, most prominently on Twitter, to raise awareness of the importance of accessibility and how it empowers people.

For its part, Apple is actively participating in spreading the word about Global Accessibility Awareness Day and accessibility in technology. To help celebrate GAAD this year, Apple is doing a number of things to show how its products foster inclusion and empowerment for people of all ages and abilities. Supporting the accessibility community has long been a core value of the company, and these initiatives are proof they remain steadfastly committed to this crucial area.

‘Designed for Everyone’ Video Series

Apple this week posted a slew of videos to its YouTube channel, under the tagline “Designed for everyone,” that showcase people of varying abilities using Apple’s accessibility features on iOS, macOS, and watchOS for work and play. These videos, seven in total, are close cousins to other videos Apple has created for a similar purpose: to show how powerful technology fosters inclusivity and empowers people to do amazing things, regardless of ability. As usual, the production value of these films is impeccably high.

Two people featured in the films are Ian Mackay and Todd Stabelfeldt. Both men suffered spinal cord injuries and rely on Switch Control, and have told their stories in more detail to media outlets in the past. Mackay spoke with Mashable's Katie Dupere last August about how he maintains an active lifestyle in spite of his injury. Likewise with Stabelfeldt, who recently told Chiara Sottile of NBC News about how Apple's HomeKit framework and Siri make doing things around his house a more independent and accessible experience.

Tim Cook Talks Accessibility in Interviews

Apple CEO Tim Cook sat down with YouTubers James Rath, Rikki Poynter, and Tatiana Lee at the company’s Cupertino headquarters. All three are known for chronicling their respective experiences with accessibility in tech. MacStories has collected these interviews in their post on the story; I highly suggest watching them. They’re terrific.

As I tweeted this morning, by watching these interviews you can clearly see Cook’s passion for accessibility. It underscores the notion that Apple supports accessibility not for “the bloody ROI,” as Cook alludes to, but because it reflects Apple’s identity. To wit, it’s not just the right thing to do in some warm and fuzzy, kumbaya sense—rather, Apple’s accessibility feature set makes their products more complete and more capable of empowering people and enriching lives. Which, if you listen to Cook speak at any and every media event, is exactly what an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch is supposed to do.

Refreshed Accessibility-Oriented App Store Collections

As the company does periodically, Apple has again refreshed their accessibility-themed App Store collections. In fact, accessibility apps have been on the Featured page of the iOS store for the last week or so. There is a collection spanning a wide range of developmental domains, as well as one for apps that work great with VoiceOver.

One of the third-party developers highlighted in these collections is AssistiveWare, makers of several excellent apps geared to accessibility including Proloquo2go.

“We as software developers should be conscious of the fact that our products might be used by people who face challenges we have not even thought of or heard about. Thinking about accessibility also tends to lead to better design, because if we make our app easier to use or support OS accessibility features such as iOS’ Dynamic Type, it will typically be a more pleasant experience for all users,” said AssistiveWare CEO David Niemeijer.

Apple Retail Accessibility Sessions

Today, Thursday, May 18, Apple is holding special accessibility workshops at its retail locations worldwide, in which people can come in and learn about Apple’s accessibility features across all platforms (iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS).