Blind Apple Engineer Highlights Company’s Continued Accessibility Efforts

BY Rajesh Pandey

Published 11 Jul 2016

iOS VoiceOver

Apple is one of the leading companies that is making its technology and products available to people with disabilities. The company’s accessibility features are way ahead of anything else that its competition offers, and very few companies even take accessibility as seriously as Apple.

Mashable has now published a story about a 22 year old engineer at Apple who was born 15 weeks early and has been blind since birth. Not to be limited by her disability, Jordyn Castor was encouraged by her family to delve into the world of technology. They would on many occasions hand her a device, tell her to figure everything out about it and then show them how to use it.

Castor currently works at Apple on enhancing features like VoiceOver. After Castor was first introduced to Apple at a Minneapolis job far in 2015 where looking at her passion towards accessibility and Apple itself, she was hired as an intern to work on VoiceOver. When her internship was coming to an end, Castor was hired full-time as an engineer by Apple for its accessibility design and quality team.

Despite her own limitations, Castor has been making the lives of other people with disabilities easier by improving VoiceOver and other accessibility features that allows them to interact with Apple products.

“I’m directly impacting the lives of the blind community,” she says of her work. “It’s incredible.”

Her direct feedback and insight helps Apple in making their products better for users with disabilities. For example, Apple realised that while a normal person can look down at their Apple Watch anytime to know the time, the same is not possible for people who are blind. The company is ultimately solving this dilemma in watchOS 3 by including a feature that tells time through vibrations.

Castor has also been the driving force on making Apple’s upcoming Swift Playground app — an application aimed at making children familiar with coding — accessible to blind children.

“I would constantly get Facebook messages from so many parents of blind children, saying, ‘My child wants to code so badly. Do you know of a way that they can do that?'” Castor says. “Now, when it’s released, I can say, ‘Absolutely, absolutely they can start coding.'”

The article also has inputs from Sarah Herrlinger, senior manager for global accessibility policy and initiatives at Apple, who says that one of the most important part for Apple for accessibility is to make all features related to it standard, and not specialised.

“[These features] show up on your device, regardless of if you are someone who needs them,” Herrlinger tells Mashable. “By being built-in, they 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.”

The whole article really shows how serious Apple is about accessibility and what it is doing to make its products more accessible to people with disabilities. No wonder the company’s efforts led it to receive the American Council of the Blind’s Robert S. Bray Award on July 4th for its continued dedication to inclusion-based innovation for blind users.

[Via Mashable]