Disability & Innovation: The Universal Benefits of Accessible Design, by Haben Girma @ WWDC 2016
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Disability & Innovation: The Universal Benefits of Accessible Design, by Haben Girma @ WWDC 2016


[ Music ]>>Ladies and gentlemen,
please join me in welcoming on stage, Haben Girma. [ Applause ]>>Good afternoon. Thank you for the introduction,
Felice. My name is Haben Girma. I work as an accessibility
and inclusion advocate, teaching organizations
and individuals to design with accessibility in mind. I’m Deafbblind. Deafblindness encompasses
a wide spectrum of vision and hearing loss. I have a little bit of hearing,
and a little bit of vision. I see maybe about 1% of what
the average sighted person sees. By identifying as Deafblind,
I’m telling the world that I’m part of a community
where knowledge gained through touch is equal in
value to knowledge gained through sight, sound,
or other means. Our world is incredibly diverse,
and when we design apps, that celebrate that
diversity, and recognize that diversity, we all benefit. So I identify as
Deafblind to tell the world to design non-visual access
and non-auditory access to help maximize communication. This is tricky for some people. One of my best friends,
when she first met me, wasn’t sure how to say hi. She was sitting next to me, in one of our classes
at law school. And she waved hi, but
I couldn’t see it. And she voiced, “Hi,” and
I couldn’t hear it. It was our first day of
international law class, and she wasn’t thinking
about international law. She was thinking about
how to get my attention. And after a while, during the
class, she came up with a plan. She did the most logical
thing for a student. She went onto Facebook and sent
me a message saying, “Hi, Haben, I’m sitting right next to you.” Technology has facilitated
access to communication for a lot of people. And when apps are designed
with accessibility in mind, iMessages, Mail, other
communication tools, people with disabilities like
myself can use them and are able to connect and share
information with people. I saw that Facebook message my
friend sent later, and I reached out to her and we were
able to communicate and I explained the various
communication methods I use. Technology facilitates
connections, when both parties are
willing and interested in practicing inclusion. I want to share a photo,
that highlights some of the communication
methods I use. In this photo I’m standing
at a table, and I’m reading from a digital Braille display. Digital Braille, comes through
a device with mechanical pins that pop up to form
Braille letters. And I read these letters
by feeling the dots. Braille is a tool,
not a language. I primarily use English Braille,
I can read Spanish Braille, and I’ve seen Braille in
many different languages. I was once on a ferry
going from Italy to Greece, and I remembered feeling a bit
lost on the ferry because all of the signs were
in Greek Braille. So Braille is a tool and the
Braille display is a device that produces this
information in Braille. Also in the photo, President
Obama is standing at the table and he’s typing on an
Apple wireless keyboard and what’s being
typed is being sent to the digital Braille display. I’m reading what’s being typed and this is a communication
method that I developed. Deaf individuals have been
developing communication tools for hundreds of years. Communities around the world
have developed sign languages. In the United States, the dominant sign language
is American Sign Language. Which is heavily influenced
by French Sign Language. My brother is Deafblind. And when he communicates with
me he uses sign language. When he’s signing I put
my hand over his hand, and feel what he is signing. When he wants to listen to me,
he’ll put his hand over my hand, and feel what I’m signing. Tactile sign language is
another form of communication that has developed,
that has been developed by the Deafblind community. Another form is print on palm,
where people write on palms. They could write in
English characters, Mandarin, and other forms of characters. Humans are incredibly creative.
We design new ways for each of us to connect and engage
and share information. Another form of communication
is dance. And dance is expressed
in many different forms. Some Deaf individuals who are
sighted will watch the other dancers and will
pick up the beats by watching the other dancers. Other individuals will watch the
musicians, and pick up the beat by watching the fingers and
instruments of the musicians. People are very creative
and find solutions. For me, dance is all
about the connection. Salsa is like a kind
of sign language and people communicate
information, rhythm, beat, music, emotions,
through their hands. Some of the signals
in salsa, are visual and the people I dance with
will switch them around and switch those visual
signals to physical signals. Through dance we celebrate
joy, connection and community. Communities that celebrate
diversity will find ways to be inclusive,
they’ll adapt strategies to make sure everyone can
participate and be involved. So dance is one community
in which I belong, that practices inclusion. When I join a community, the first question people
usually ask me is, “How do you communicate?” The second question
people usually ask me is, “Have you heard of Helen Keller?” [Laughter] Helen Keller was an
amazing advocate, she lived from 1880 to 1968. She advocated for
women’s rights, disability rights,
worker’s rights. She spent her whole life
advocating, and yet many stories of Helen reduce her
to one theme. She succeeded despite
her disability. Disability never
holds anyone back. Disability is not something
that people need to overcome. The barriers that exist
are created by society, and it’s up to every single
one of us to work together to remove those barriers. Helen was successful because
she was part of communities that chose to practice
inclusion. She went to Radcliffe College, and Radcliffe provided
books in Braille. And made sure she
had interpreters. They worked to ensure
access and inclusion. Not every community
practices inclusion. Harvard wouldn’t admit Helen. Back then Harvard
only admitted men. Helen’s disability
didn’t hold her back. Her gender didn’t hold her back.
It was the community of Harvard that chose to deny
access to women. As another example, Helen’s
family would not allow her to experience marriage. Helen fell in love,
secretly got engaged, but her family prevented her from marrying the
person she loved. Helen’s disability didn’t
stop her from feeling love. She wrote extensively
about love. But her family, her community, chose to create insurmountable
barriers. All the barriers that exist
are created by society. As members of society, we play a
role in removing those barriers and making sure that everyone
can access information and has access to opportunities. We’ve come a long way
since Helen’s time. More and more communities
celebrate diverse families and relationships. Harvard eventually
made the smart decision to open its doors to women. And now technology
creates more opportunities for people to connect. I often wonder, what would
Helen have accomplished, what freedom would she have
enjoyed, if she had access to the world of apps
that are accessible to people with disabilities? One of the features
Apple offers for developers is
called VoiceOver. And VoiceOver is a
screen-reader that, when an app is compatible
with, will produce information in speech or digital
Braille for users of the app. I’m going to share a
demonstration video that shows how VoiceOver works. [ Applause ] Apple has a variety of
accessibility features, VoiceOver is one
which you just saw. Another one, support
for Dynamic Type. When you support Dynamic Type,
people who are low vision and need larger font sizes can
have better access to your apps. Another feature is Captioning. Support for Captioning allows
individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, to access the
audio content of your videos. Support for Assistive
Devices like Braille displays, switch controls, switch
controls benefit individuals with limited mobility. So these are some of the
features that if you design for your apps to be accessible,
will allow greater access for people with disabilities. But don’t stop there, keep
innovating, keep thinking of new ways for people to
access your information. Our goal is to have a
world where all the apps in the App Store
are accessible. Right now if I need an app,
for anything from travel to shopping, I need
to spend hours looking for an accessible app. And sometimes, there isn’t
an accessible option. Our goal is to have every app, and I mean every single
app, to be accessible. Several years ago, I went
to China for the first time. And when I arrived in my hotel in Beijing I did what I always
do when I go somewhere new. I explored. And while
exploring the room, I discovered an unidentifiable
object. It felt a little like
a piece of fruit, but I’d never seen
anything like it before. I was wondering:
should I taste it? [Laughter] I was super curious to
find out what it was, but not curious enough to taste
an unknown object [laughter]. So instead I got out my camera,
on my iPhone, took a picture, and texted it to a friend,
asking: what on earth is this? Is it safe to eat? I learned that it
was dragon fruit. And I discovered I
like dragon fruit. Now imagine a lot
of people thinking, why would a camera app
need to be accessible? Why would blind people
ever take pictures? We take pictures for the
same reasons sighted people take pictures. To capture moments, to share
experiences with friends. Our goal is to make sure
all apps are accessible. Try not to make assumptions
about what people with disabilities
can and can’t do. Instead, strive for inclusion. And as you strive for
inclusion for your apps, here are a few things
to keep in mind. It helps to plan for
accessibility from the start. It’s much easier, it
saves you resources if you plan for accessibility,
from the very start. I’ll give an example
from the physical world. Imagine someone builds
a skyscraper but realizes they forgot to put
an elevator. Tears down part of the building, and then
installs an elevator. That’s more time consuming
and drains resources. It would be much
easier to just plan for an elevator from the start. Same principle applies
in the digital world. You save yourself resources when you can have accessibility
from the very start. And there are engineers
with disabilities, designers with disabilities,
testers with disabilities, to help you with the process. There are all so many disability
organizations in the U.S. and around the world, to
help provide feedback. Engage with us, from initial
design to app updates. Apple also has a
lot of resources to help you with this process. There are online tutorials,
documentation, accessibility guidelines
for iOS. Tomorrow evening here, at WWDC, we’re going to have an
accessibility mixer. Come and join us. I’ll be there to
answer questions, lots of accessibility
people will be there, including developers who’ve
gone through this process of making sure their
apps are accessible. So these are resources
that are available to you and will help you design
apps that are accessible. Accessibility benefits
your consumers, but it also benefits you. Accessibility has many
benefits for you because one, people with disabilities are
the largest minority group. About 1 in 5 Americans
lives with a disability. So when you design with
accessibility in mind, you get access to
more customers, more people can benefit
from your services. Another thing to keep in mind is
accessibility increases access for everyone, including
non-disabled users. For example, when you
caption your videos, and you add alternative
text to your images, more text is associated
with your content. And because of that, it’s easier
for people to find your content through powerful
keyword searches. The videos from WWDC are
captioned and those captions produce a transcript, and
anyone can do a keyword search and find exactly where in the
video a topic was discussed. This is an example
of how a feature that benefits the
Deaf community, also benefits the
greater community. But the most important
point is innovation. Disability drives innovation. When you think about new ways
of accessing information, new ways for people to connect,
and engage with each other, you’re going to find yourself
designing the next best thing. Throughout our history
disability has sparked innovation, that benefits
all of us today and many of the products we use today, can be traced back
to disability. In 1808, an Italian inventor
named Turri built one of the first working
typewriters. He wanted a solution
for producing print that didn’t require vision. That someone can do by touch. Now Turri had a lover who was
blind, and he wanted her to be able to write
him love letters. So he designed the first, one
of the first working typewriters as a possible solution. And now today, around the world,
we have lots of touch typists, lots of people who use
keyboards without using vision, both sighted typists
and blind typists. More recently, one of the
fathers of the internet, Vinton Cerf, is hard of hearing, and his wife is also hearing
impaired, and they were looking for a solution that would
allow them to communicate without using hearing. And to communicate from afar. Disability drives innovation, not just by non-disabled
inventors but by people with disabilities as well. Vinton ended up developing one
of the earliest email protocols, and electronic mail
was one way for them to communicate from afar. And now, just about
everybody uses email, and sends text messages. Solutions designed with
disability in mind end up benefiting the
entire community. And central to innovation
is exploration. I’m going to share a
photo of a jungle gym. And a jungle gym
highlights exploration. There are multiple ways to get
to the top, there isn’t a right or wrong way to climb,
there isn’t a right or wrong path to take. When I’m climbing I
can’t see the ropes. This is about, 20 feet tall, it’s a pyramid shaped
rope based jungle gym. And when I climb, I reach out,
explore, until I find the ropes, until I find the solution. There are many, many, many
different ways to climb, by touch, by sight, by sound. You could have someone
down on the ground offering voice guidance. If you have a mobility
disability, you can design an
assistive climbing device. Exploration values
alternative techniques and the more open you
are to seeing the world in multiple perspectives,
the more likely you are going to design, develop
the next big thing. One area where we rarely
seek innovation is haptics. And haptics is the concept of communicating
information through touch. I have an Apple Watch, and it taps my wrist twice
when I get a message. And that’s a form of communication based
on haptics, touch. I recently went surfing, and that whole experience
was about haptics. Here’s a photo of
me on a tandem board and a tandem board
is a large board. I’m standing near the front and in the back is
the surf instructor, Matt Allen from Maui
Surf Academy. He was using tactile signals. I could also feel the power
of the waves vibrating through the surf board, the wind, the sun,
the cold water. Skin is our largest organ, yet we’ve barely explored
the potential of haptics. There’s a lot of potential
at this intersection of haptics and technology. Keep exploring, keep
innovating, keep designing apps that are going to increase
access for everyone. And as you go through this, engage with the disability
community, plan for accessibility from
the start and design knowing that it’s going to benefit you. Thanks for listening everyone. [ Applause ]

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