Posts Tagged ‘Steve Jobbs’

I expect more from Technology because of Jobs

October 6, 2011

Words are never enough to express
such a loss
and I have never been good at writing anyway. But I feel compelled
to say a few things about how Steve Jobs has profoundly altered my
expectations when it comes to technology especially as a blind person.

 

I started using a mobile phone in late 2000. It was a Nokia 3310. I was 19 at that time
and living in India. The phone was a gift from my uncle in Singapore. All I could
do with it is send and receive calls. I had to remember telephone numbers of
course because I couldn’t use the phone book. Text messages, reminders and
everything else was equally unusable. But surprisingly, I didn’t mind it in the
least. I had a device that I could use to contact friends and family any time and
any where I wanted. For a while, I felt like I had the greatest thing in the
world.

 

In 2011 however, I at least own four different so called
smart phones and as a blind person, I can use most of their excellent features
and functionality. The real game changer for me is undoubtedly the iPhone with
its built-in accessibility features. In spite of all its limitations and Apple’s
walled garden approach, iPhone has drastically improved my access to
information and to that, I am eternally grateful to Steve Jobs.

 

I grew up in a south Indian city called Hyderabad which had no
real infrastructure to support persons with blindness or any other disabilities
for that matter. Access to information and books in alternative formats was
unheard of for most of my younger years. I read my first proper braille book
when I was sixteen thanks to RNIB’s National Library for the Blind in the UK. As
a result, I started devouring information when my parents bought me a computer,
a flatbed scanner and Kurzweil 1000
software. I believed for a long time that I couldn’t live without my computer
for any length of time. But the iPhone changed all this. I can do almost
everything on the iPhone now including listening to books. I am still catching
up on all the reading I missed when I was young. Survival would be tough
without the iPhone.

 

I don’t believe Apple’s motives behind including built-in
accessibility features in their products are entirely altruistic. I am sure
legal considerations were a significant factor in setting the accessibility initiative
at Apple in motion. Does anyone remember the VPAT for the 1st
generation iPhone? It implied that blind people could use the device with
exceptions.

 

But the reasons are immaterial. Once Apple decided to build
in accessibility, all of us benefited from Steve Jobs’ vision of doing things
right. I have no doubt that he was directly and/or indirectly responsible for
the high level of accessibility we see in iOS devices these days. It wouldn’t
have been possible without continued support from top management. Stevie
Wonder was entirely right to thank Jobs
for this.

 

Unfortunately, increased accessibility in iOS devices has greatly
raised my expectations. It is hard to digest the fact that other smartphone and
tablet devices and platforms offer very little by way of accessibility. If it
weren’t for the iPhone, I would have been happy to wait for a 3rd
party company to develop assistive technology software for one or two of these
devices. Instead, I now expect that other smartphones and tablets also provide
these accessibility features by default.

 

Although I am frequently disappointed by lack of such
features, I am thankful to Steve Jobs for opening my eyes (figuratively
speaking of course) to the fact that I can definitely expect more from
technology. Thank you Steve for treating persons with disabilities fairly. I sincerely
pray that Apple continues your legacy. Rest in peace.

 


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