The Touch Bar Makes the Mac More Accessible to Me

Marco Arment, creator of my favorite podcast app and a co-host of one of my favorite podcasts, published a piece yesterday in which he outlines what Apple should do with the next revision of the MacBook Pro. Regarding the Touch Bar, he writes:

Sorry, it’s a flop. It was a solid try at something new, but it didn’t work out. There’s no shame in that — Apple should just recognize this, learn from it, and move on.

The Touch Bar should either be discontinued or made optional for all MacBook Pro sizes and configurations.

Arment’s recommendation that Apple “back away from the Touch Bar” reiterates a popular sentiment in the Apple community: in blunt terms, the Touch Bar sucks. I’ve read many articles and heard many podcasts where prominent members of the community deride the feature and question its future. These criticisms, while legitimate, sting me personally because I like the Touch Bar.

It stings because, in my usage, I find the Touch Bar to be an invaluable tool when I’m using macOS. Where it shines considerably is as an alternative to keyboard shortcuts and the system emoji picker. Tapping a button on the Touch Bar is far more accessible than trying to contort my hands to execute a keyboard shortcut or straining my eyes searching for an emoji. In addition, the Zoom feature—one of the Touch Bar’s many accessibility features—makes seeing controls much easier.

However useful the Touch Bar is to me, I realize I’m only one data point. When I shared my experiences on Twitter, Shelly Brisbin responded by rightfully pointing out how accessibility “is very different for each user” while adding she has “no love” for the Touch Bar. Brisbin, like Arment and numerous others, don’t like the feature and have no use for it. Which is the whole problem, I suppose—not enough people are in the “I like it” camp for the Touch Bar. Even Apple itself seems less enthused about the feature, given how High Sierra shipped this fall without much iteration in this regard. Maybe they really are “backing away.”

Whatever happens to the Touch Bar going forward, I’ll continue to use it and like it. While I spend most of my computing time on iOS, my time on the Mac is made better and more accessible by the Touch Bar’s presence. I’m only one person, but that’s my take.

Shelly Brisbin is absolutely correct when she says accessibility differs from person to person. In sharing my experiences with the Touch Bar, though, I want to show the feature isn’t an abject failure. It does have utility and it’s technically extremely well done. I think a lot of the Touch Bar haters overlook all the capabilities the Touch Bar offers in terms of accessibility, at least for me.

I’ll be sad if the Touch Bar is abandoned or discontinued, but again, let the record show that it helps me and I’m a big fan.