I’m very sorry. I know there will be hundreds if not thousands of blog posts written to mark the death of Steve Jobs today and I am a tiny voice among millions that have passed along condolences.
It is widely acknowledged that Steve Jobs changed mobile computing extensively in the past few years but I think it’s important to say that although he changed the way most people interact with their mobile phones, for me and others who are blind he broke down what seemed to be an impenetrable barrier to accessibility, the touch screen. Before the iPhone 3GS it was completely unheard of for a company to provide access to their entire operating system without the requirement to purchase expensive assistive software. It is hard to imagine the surprise and delight among visually impaired people when not only was it announced that apple had independently made the iPhone platform accessible therefore being the first company to ever provide what I consider to be compelling access to touch screen based interfaces, they were doing so without imposing an additional price on blind consumers. This is ordinarily completely unheard of. The license for a new screen reader for the Windows operating system averages at about €1000 or higher. License upgrades are over €200. Screen readers that enable blind phone users to access Simbian 60 phones made by Nokia for example cost on average €250 or more.
This needs to be really understood. Take for example a company such as Microsoft or even Google. Frameworks, techniques, processes and guidelines have been created to help ensure that making a system fully accessible is actually not that difficult if it’s done from the foundation up. Google is a great example of this. They built the Android system after IOS was already in the market place. I know for a fact that they were lobbied to ensure that their operating system took accessibility into account however from my perspective they didn’t just fail to do this adequately, they were simply not bothered or motivated. Thanks to the work of Steve Jobs and Apple this is no longer acceptable. We now know that it’s possible for companies to develop attractive systems that do not inhibit accessibility to people with vision impairments. We now know that rival companies can even surpass Apples accomplishments if they wanted to. Looking at Microsoft for a moment, they have always had a terrible history of making applications and operating systems that completely disregarded accessibility. They have taken steps to rectify this over the past eight or nine years but they haven’t done enough. Windows 8 looks like it could be better for users who depend on screen readers but I won’t hold my breath. I honestly don’t know if Steve Jobs was the proponent of making accessibility the norm for Apple devices but regardless, he was at the helm when that Corse was taken. That’s what matters to me today.
Thanks to Steve jobs, I have an Apple TV and I can use it.
Thanks to Steve Jobs, I have an iPod and I can use it.
Thanks to Steve jobs, I have an iPhone and I can use it.
Thanks to Steve Jobs, I have a Mac Mini and I can use it!