Yesterday was Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and every year it throws into sharp relief the fact that a lot of Australians living with disability don’t have the same access to technology — the technology powered by touchscreens and mice and keyboards — that the rest of us do. 1 in 5 Australians live with disability of some kind, and to mark the occasion Apple has made a wide variety of specialised accessibility accessories available through its online store in Australia for the first time.
A huge range of AbleNet accessories, for example, work with Apple’s Switch Control protocols built into both OSX and iOS. Everything from literal switches to large, low-sensitivity trackball mice make it easier for users with limited motion to be able to navigate through on-screen items sequentially. There’s even amotion-sensing camera that can function as a mouse.
Vision impaired users of Apple hardware already have the excellent accessibility and VoiceOver features of iOS, but HumanWare Braille keyboards works to translate on-screen text into tactile Braille symbols, and also has an eight-key Braille keyboard that can be used to type using different key combinations in conjunction with Apple’s accessibility software features.
There are even touch input tools that users with disability can create music with. Responding to the sensitivity of motion and touch in the same way that a theremin does, the Skoogmusic Skoog 2.0 has multiple input surfaces that can be customised for sensitivity and assigned to different audio tracks or musical inputs on a complementary iOS app for iPad. Made for iTunes and Garageband, it’s a legitimate musical instrument — just one designed to be more accessible.
Apple also held workshops yesterday at all 22 of its Australian retail Stores, with sessions discussing accessibility for Mac, iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch and covering areas like hearing, vision and motor skills.