tim cook

apple park visitor center

Apple has really great UI features for people with disabilities.  There are options to change the color contrast, enlarge the font, and it even has a built-in screen reader for someone whose vision requires this kind of feature.  A lot of devices – including PCs themselves, don’t include these additional features.  But having these features built in means that a person with a disability can now use that particular device.  Which is one reason that Apple is such an incredible company.  Without these features, a person with a disability has to buy additional software (JAWS or ZoomText) and then add it to their system.  That in itself isn’t always a bad thing, but when you can get everything built into the OS, that’s even better.

But now Apple has proven their commitment to accessibility goes far beyond the UI features. Apple has designed Apple Park in a way that benefits people, regardless of their abilities.  More simply known as “universal design”.  Universal design is the theory that a product (which could be a building or software) is designed to benefit the largest number of people.  Ramps, for example, are necessary for someone who uses a wheelchair.  But ramps also help people who are traveling with luggage or a mother who is pushing a stroller full of small children.  While the ramp in itself is designed to help one group of people, universal design dictates that it will also benefit everyone. So what has Apple done?

Apple Park
Photo by Justin Sullivan

Ground Level Access

Most buildings are “raised” in some way, which requires ramps to go from the front entrance to ground level.  But not at the Visitor Center.  The entire structure is built at the same level as the parking lot.  But because money was not a factor, Apple actually leveled the ground.  This isn’t something that most companies can do, so while I think this is a great idea and of greater benefit, it’s not always feasible.

automatic door opener

Automatic Door Openers

What’s interesting about this particular design is that Apple is using motion-activated automatic door openers.  Apple is taking advantage of technology and installing a post that will trigger the presence of a person, which will then open the door.  In the past, people would have to hit a button to open the door.  That kind of design also has problems with it, but again, money is usually a concern.

apple park visitor center

One Path for All

This is key.  A lot of buildings are designed in a way where one path is for people who can walk upstairs.  But because they “have” to make their facility accessible, they create an alternate or secondary path for someone who uses a wheelchair.  While it’s a good move, regardless, this isn’t the way to design with everyone in mind.  Apple, on the other hand, has a ton of wide open spaces on the interior.

Overall, Apple is doing a lot of work to ensure that people with disabilities are able to access both their devices as well as their facilities and services.  I think all tech companies can take a page from Apple’s playbook in this regard, to ensure that all people are considered within the design process.

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