Apple made its presence felt at the CSUN Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference 2008. On Wednesday, Apple gave two presentations to a full room equipped with dozens of 20- and 24-inch iMacs at the Los Angeles International Airport Marriott Hotel.
The sessions, presented by Mike Shebanek, Apple’s Senior Product Manager for Worldwide Product Marketing, in charge of Mac OS X and VoiceOver, focussed on general use of VoiceOver with the Macintosh operating system, and use of VoiceOver with the iTunes media management and playback software. Mary-Beth James, whose name will be familiar to many Voiceover users, was also present to assist during the sessions.
Both sessions were geared toward users who were unfamiliar with VoiceOver, and were very informative for many of those in attendance. Mr. Shebanek stressed Apple’s ongoing commitment to accessibility, noting particularly the extensive tools available to third-party developers to make their applications accessible with VoiceOver, and the positive results of their efforts.
During the afternoon session on iTunes, Mr. Shebanek also mentioned that Apple is aware of and working on the features of the iTunes store that are still inaccessible. These include the ability to purchase albums in their entirety, view one’s account, etc. He mentioned that accessibility for Apple’s line of iPod music players is also being worked out, and asked those in attendance whether APple should continue to release accessibility improvements as they become available, or waiting until they are fully realized in products. Overwhelmingly, it seemed, the attendees were in favor of Apple releasing incremental updates that improve accessibility over time.
We here at Lioncourt.com would like to point out that Apple has received criticism from some when they’ve taken the approach of incremental accessibility enhancements, and would like to encourage those of you who would like to see the improvements as they become available to contact Apple Accessibility and let them know. Specifically, Mr. Shebanek asked if partial access to iPod menus would be something users would like while problems with deeper menu levels were being ironed out.
Overall, the number of Mac users seems to have increased at the annual conference, and Apple’s presence was felt beyond the presentations put on by the company. For example, MacSpeech Dictate was being demonstrated, and developers for OpenOffice.org also discussed their efforts to provide accessibility in their open source office suite with VoiceOver on the Mac platform.
Apple has once again demonstrated a commitment to accessibility that extends far beyond that of rival companies, and we thank them for their efforts.