For Apple, World Accessibility Awareness Day is about education – TechCrunch



After the Apple educational event in Chicago in March , I wrote about what the company's advertisements could mean for accessibility. After sitting among the audience that covered the event, the big lesson I had was that Apple could "move forward seriously in the promotion of special education as well". As I wrote, despite how well designed the classroom and applications for school work apparently are, Apple should do more to adapt its new tools to better serve students and educators in special education settings. After all, accessibility and special education are inextricably linked

It turns out that Apple, as expected, considered this.

"In many ways, education and accessibility overlap beautifully," Sarah Herrlinger, senior director of global accessibility at Apple Policy and Initiatives, told me. "For us, the concept of differentiated learning and how the accessibility tools we build [to the products] help make [learning] possible is really important for us."

Apple's philosophy towards accessibility and education is not about deliberately targeting esoteric use cases such as prep IEPs or specialized teaching methodologies.

In fact, Apple says there are many applications in the iOS App Store that do just that. Instead, the company believes that special education students and teachers themselves should take the tools as they are and discover creative uses for them. Apple encourages those in schools to take the new, low-cost iPad and new software and turn them into the tools that they need to teach and learn. Steve Jobs launched the original iPad: it's a metal and glass slab that can be whatever you want it to be.

In other words, it's Apple customers who put the & # 39; I & # 39; on the iPad.

In retrospect, Apple's point of view on how they support special education makes a lot of sense if you understand their ethos. Tim Cook often talks about building products that enrich people's lives: in a context of education and accessibility, this feeling often becomes a literal truism. For many people with disabilities, iOS and the iPad are the conduit through which they access the world.

Apple ultimately has the iPad and the message that surrounds it, but in reality it is the users who really transform it and give it its identity. This is what makes the tablet exceptional for learning. The design of the device is so intrinsically accessible that anyone, regardless of their ability, can take it and go crazy.

(Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi / Getty Images)

Apple's educational team is special

In the March event, one of the presenters on stage was Kathleen Richardson, who works at Apple on its ConnectedED program . She is one of the many who work in the educational team of the company, whose group has the task of working with schools and districts to evangelize and integrate Apple products into their curriculum.

spoke with Meg Wilson, a former special education teacher who now works on educational efforts within Apple. Apple's Distinguished Educator, Wilson is the resident "special education guru" who provides information on how special education programs generally work. With that knowledge, it provides guidance on how Apple's products can increase the process of individualization and differentiation of educational plans for special education students.

One focus of our discussion was the Schoolwork application and how it could be used to meet the needs of teachers and support staff. An example that Wilson cited was that of a speech therapy session, where a speech pathologist could use school work not necessarily for brochures, but to monitor student progress toward IEP goals. Instead of the application showing a worksheet for the student to complete, it could display a data tracking document for the therapist, who is recording information during the lessons. "What we need in the special edition is data-we need data," Wilson said. He added that school work can be used to "really see the progress" that students are making from an iPad without mountains of paper. A key element for this, according to Wilson, is the ability of Schoolwork to modernize and expedite the exchange. Makes consulting with other members of the IEP team a more continuous and dynamic effort. Instead of everyone meeting once a year for an annual review of student progress, Wilson said: School work allows "an incredible opportunity for collaboration among service providers."

Wilson also emphasized the general theme of customizing the iPad to meet the needs of teacher and student. "When you're creative with technology, you change people's lives," he said.

For her, the iPad and especially the new software scale for different students and different environments really well. For special educators, for example, Wilson said it's easy to add the entire workload to Schoolwork and have progress reports ready at any time. Similarly, the ability in Classroom to "block" a whole class (or a single student) in an iPad activity, which takes its cue from the iOS Guided Access function, helps teachers ensure that students stay engaged and in the homework during class. And for students, the intuitive nature of the iPad means that students can instantly share their work with teachers.

But not only Apple is changing education. Wilson argued repeatedly that third-party developers are also making Apple's education solutions more compelling. He noted that there are many applications in the App Store that can help in special education environments (IEP preparation, communication panels, etc.) and that Apple hears from developers who want to learn about accessibility and, above all, how to make their applications accessible all by admitting discrete accessibility features. Wilson shared an anecdote of a revealing experience for a developer, who said that the idea of ​​supporting accessibility "did not even occur to him", but in doing so he improved his application.

One "great idea" that caught my attention from the meeting with Wilson was the diversity of Apple's workforce. Wilson is a former special education teacher. According to reports, Apple's health and fitness team is made up of medical professionals such as doctors and nurses. Apple's education team is no different, as my conversation with Wilson testified. It is remarkable how Apple brings together many, from all walks of life, to help inform as they build these products. The liberal arts are really crossed with technology.

Apple makes learning code accessible to all

In early March, Lori Hawkins at Austin American-Statesman reported on how Apple has made its program Everyone can codify be accessible to all. Hawkins wrote that Apple representatives visited the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired of Austin to teach students how to fly drones with the code written on the Swift Playgrounds application. As expected, Swift Playgrounds is fully compatible with VoiceOver and even Switch Control. "When we said that everyone should be able to code, we really wanted to tell everyone," Herrlinger told the statesman . "Fortunately these kids will come out of this session and continue coding for a long time, maybe I can inspire where their careers can go." Herrlinger also participated in a panel at the SXSW festival, where she and others discussed the coding and accessibility of Everyone Can Code.

For World Accessibility Awareness Day this year, Apple has announced that a large number of special education schools are adopting Everyone Can Code in their curricula. In a press release, the company says they "collaborated with engineers, educators and programmers from diverse accessibility communities to make Everyone Can Code as accessible as possible." They also point out that there are "additional tools and resources" that should help avoid apprentices to better understand coding environments.

In addition to the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Austin, Apple says there are seven other institutions across the country that are implementing the All Can Code curriculum. Among them are two Bay Area schools: the Northern California campuses of the California School for the Blind and the California School for the Deaf, both located in Fremont.

At a special opening event at CSD on Thursday students were visited by Apple employees, which included CEO Tim Cook, who came to the school to officially announce the participation of CSB and CSD in the Everyone Can Code program.

The students arrived at the school's media lab for what they believed was just another coding day. Actually, they were surprised when Tim Cook made his appearance. Members of the Apple Accessibility team walked students through the control of drones and robots in Swift Playgrounds on the iPad. Cook, along with the activist and deaf actor Nyle DiMarco, toured the room to visit the students and make them show off their work.

In a speech to the students, Cook said: "We are very happy to be here to kick off the All can codify the curriculum with you. We believe that accessibility is a fundamental human right and coding is part of that ".

In an interview, Cook told me: "Accessibility has been a priority at Apple for a long time." He continued: "We believe in focusing on capacity instead of disability. We believe that coding is a language, a language that should be accessible to everyone." When asked about the accessibility features he uses personally, Cook said that due to hearing problems he likes to use subtitles whenever possible. And because he wears glasses, he likes to expand the text on all his devices, especially the iPhone.

Apple retail events related to accessibility

As in previous years, Apple will spend the month of May promoting accessibility and Global Accessibility Awareness Day by hosting numerous events focused on accessibility in its retail stores throughout the world. (These are also done throughout the year). These include workshops on accessibility features on all Apple platforms, as well as lectures and more. Apple says they have held "more than 10,000 accessibility sessions" since 2017.

Today, at the Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2018, Apple organizes events related to accessibility on several campuses around the world, including its corporate headquarters in Cupertino , as well as on campus satellites in Austin, Cork and London.


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