Why Accessibility?

Education is a great equalizing force, and our goal is to enable all people to learn and create in the ways that work best for them. We believe that technology should be accessible to everyone — a great example is Sady Paulson, an Apple Distinguished Educator, who used Switch Control on a Mac to edit the video embedded below.

Sady's video includes both Audio Descriptions and Closed Captions. To increase accessibility in all of your forum posts, add descriptions to images and closed caption files to videos. Tag all accessibility-related posts with Accessibility and Inclusion to make it easier for others to join the conversation. Learn more at www.apple.com/accessibility.

Why is accessibility important to you? Share your reflections about how accessibility has impacted you and/or your students in the discussion below.

10 replies

August 27, 2022

Accessibility is important to me because it is the great democratising ideal - it creates a space where everything is available to everybody. We know that in the same way a natural ecosystem benefits from the greatest biodiversity of flora, so too does our society benefit from the greatest diversity of individuals coming together and sharing ideas. That is the power that accessibility has, to provide a pathway for fostering a society of abundant diversity.

That's also what I love about Apple technology, it is a model of universal design in terms of how it leverages diversity through accessibility. When I was first introducing colleagues to the power of accessibility for our students I used to talk about riding on a bus - I'd say, look around you on a bus, you have someone over there on their Apple device checking the bus timetable, on the other seat you have someone checking their maps to make sure they're going the right way, and next to them is someone looking through their photos. And, you have one of our students, a neurodiverse student using their iPad to read a social story to help them prepare for a job interview, and over there, another of our students, using an augmentative and alternative communication app to talk with a friend. And guess what, everybody is using the same device - our students aren't using niche hardware just manufactured for the special education space, they are using the same devices as everybody on that bus. Twenty years ago that wasn't the case, but it sure is now. That's the power of accessibility, to put the same tools in reach of a diverse community of learners and see how they use them to access the world.

Accessibility is our future, and I'm thrilled to be part of it.

August 29, 2022

Well said Wrenasmir! I love your comparison to flora in an ecosystem and how that translates to the richness of our growth when diverse perspectives are contributing to society. There is so much value when we make time to observe, listen, and learn from everyone around us!

August 28, 2022

Accessibility is important for me because it is a fundamental part of how we consistently afford the dignity of a barrier free experience.  Barrier free experiences exhibit four key characteristics:

  1. Independent access: designed so that it doesn’t assume that assistance is required.
  2. Equitable access: designed so that it doesn’t take longer or make anyone go further.
  3. Participation and growth: designed so that everyone’s authentic involvement is a natural and expected thing. This is particularly so for people whom disability is a lived experience.
  4. Satisfaction: designed to create an experience where people feel at ease, safe, engaged, and connected.

The dignity of a barrier free experience is inclusive and inspires innovation.

Apple’s commitment to its’ long-held value of accessibility is exhibited every day in the technology it creates. These inbuilt features seamlessly support learners, staff, parent and caregivers of diverse backgrounds and abilities to participate in the experience on the same basis.  It is a never ending iterative inclusive journey. It is something that inspires me and I learn from every day as well.

However, we must recognise that Apple’s great efforts are only the start of delivering barrier free experiences. As educators, we have a professional responsibility to:

  • Learn about utilising Apple's accessible ecosystem to 'empower personalisation' of the barrier free experience,
  • Creating / procuring learning resources and systems that leverage those accessibility features.

As a starter, I would strongly recommend to any and all educators to read through the Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines, in-particular the two sections on accessibility and inclusion.  Whilst created for the developer community, it is written in a non tech way that can be applied to any classroom.

August 29, 2022

Fantastic perspective and insight. Accessibility is indeed intended to remove barriers for all and I appreciate your emphasis on the responsibility of all of us to keep learning and understanding what accessibility does for our students. Thank you for sharing the resource links as well!

August 30, 2022

@KyleP-AppleEDU is there anyway to amend my original post by adding this sentence at the end.

To learn more about the accessibility features built into your Apple devices check out Apple Support's Apple Accessibility channel.

August 30, 2022

Hi! As the author of the post, you should be able to still edit it by clicking the option arrow and selecting Edit. Great resource addition!

August 29, 2022

Accessibility means my daughter can participate in many everyday experiences that would typically be too overwhelming for her, including attending classes at school. Sometimes the sounds of the world can be too much for her, especially at school where bells, music, announcements, conversations, and lockers shutting punctuate the day. It’s more than distracting, it fuels her anxiety and means she cannot access the content when she cannot focus on learning. With the help of the noise cancelling feature of her AirPods Pro, my daughter can be at school, in class, learning. And, with a simple press and hold she can toggle to transparency mode and hear what her teacher or classmates are saying, when she wants or needs to hear it.

August 29, 2022

Thank you so much for sharing this story about your daughter! I always default to first thinking of Live Listen to bring sounds in vs. keeping sounds out. This is a great perspective!

September 05, 2022

Accessibility. Access! It’s the open door to learning or the clear path to learning and life. An “accessibility first” mindset removes barriers for everyone. Thinking about my roots as a special educator, I generally frame my work around 3 different categories... Access, compensation and specialized instruction. Without access, there is a large hurdle to get over in order to support compensation and instruction. I’m proud to work for a District who is truly putting forth a solid effort in eliminating silos and beginning to open doors by prioritizing accessibility first. While we still have so much more work, our team realizes that when we open the door to all learners, we can build a learning community where anyone can access and engage to showcase learning and share perspectives in the best way possible. 

November 27, 2022

Accessibility is the but the first step on the path to a more inclusive and equitable world. No one is saying that Stephen Hawking is undeserving of his accolades or that he didn't really write his novels since he couldn't put pen to paper. So then are the stories our students tell through speech-to-text or videos of just as much value just as their tales and just as valuable as a handwritten page. In fact, we could argue those multimedia stories are of even greater importance in a modern world where they will likely have more viewers.

Even when we think about something as simple as a straw we might think of the sodas or bubble teas we hope to consume. Or maybe we think of the litter cast off and choking the Pacific Ocean wildlife. Or maybe we even have a knowledge of history enough to know that plastic straws first came about during a previous pandemic called polio to help prevent the spread of disease. But a bendable straw is also one of the first accessibility tools for many people with physical disabilities. It allows them the freedom to enjoy their beverage independently.

And that's what accessibility brings. Freedom. Independence. The ability to make choices for your own life without requiring an intermediary to be involved in it. You can decide when to sip or when to take that photo even if you don't have the hands or the vision to do it given accessible technology and tangible accessible devices.

I am an autistic person. My younger brother participated in the Special Olympics due to language and cognitive delays. And I have spent the last 20 years working with children and adults with disabilities to help them lead the fullest lives that they can. And the more technology advances we see how those who cannot speak still have a voice, those who cannot see can still find their way, and those without legs can still dance for joy.

In my time as an educator in New York City, I have seen students communicate, find directions, and express their creativity in ways that wouldn't have been possible without technology. And none of them should have to ask for those accommodations. It should already be in place. We shouldn't have to force anyone to ostracize themself or jump through hoops, which is frequently the case in the higher education world, to get what they need to be successful. That is the world we should be creating where they can be independent creators, self-advocates, and voices for change in whatever capacity they desire. And where there are obstacles to that, we must break them down.

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