In the words of Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, “Technology should be accessible to everyone,” and in the wake of National Disability Employment Awareness Month in the US, both Apple and Microsoft made it clear that the issue of accessibility is driving their software upgrades.
First up, Microsoft. Its updated Office and Windows apps not only help the audio/visually impaired but also provide assistive features for keyboard use and help web developers to assess the accessibility of the sites they are creating. Microsoft’s new ethos is one of learning from the consumer rather than arbitrarily deciding what the consumer needs. It’s a change that’s working; its stock price is higher than it ever has been and it is recovering its consumer loyalty base from a negative eight net promoter score two years ago that ranked it lower than Adobe for customer satisfaction*. The new accessibility features are advances inspired by CEO Satya Nadella’s characteristic curiosity and are a good reason for him to be named one of Fortune’s Business People of the Year.
Apple’s advances, as you would expect, are headline grabbing and go hand in hand with its wearables. The Apple watch includes ‘Taptic Time’ vibrations to help the visually impaired tell the time, its Switch Control gives users sophisticated control of their desktops using head movements, while its Bluetooth hearing aids working in sync with Live Listen to turn the iPhone into a microphone of sorts, as well as being able to stream audio without the need for a “streamer” adaptor.
Apple seems to have taken the accessibility agenda a step further. The advances are not simply about improving working life for those with disabilities, they also improve the quality of life. Everything from fitness programs for wheelchair users to a range of customizable audio systems that make taking a photo or watching TV easier is covered. As Apple takes a holistic approach it will be interesting to see if Microsoft follows suit.
What is significant is that both companies are offering these upgrades without extra cost, making access to technology for work, pleasure, communication and entertainment a right for all, rather than a privilege. As Tim Cook notes: “If people have access to our products, they can push humanity forward.” It’s a compelling argument.
Amnet too, believes wholeheartedly that accessible technology is a right for all. To this end it has entered into a pilot project with Google Impact Challenge award winners: Benetech and the Daisy Consortium to help set industry standards and produce tools that make creating accessible websites a starting point rather than an afterthought.
Sign up for an accessibility review through Amnet Systems and make sure the one billion people worldwide with disabilities are making the most of your digital assets.
*source a SurveyMonkey Benchmarks assessment http://betanews.com/2015/04/07/microsoft-vs-apple-which-has-the-most-loyal-and-satisfied-customers/