3 lessons from developers who have embraced assistive technology

When the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law 25 years ago, few could have imagined just how much would change as a result of the legislation.

Fewer still could have imagined a world where almost anyone has access to pocket-sized computers that would open so many doors to people with disabilities.

Today, we have apps that can help the blind see, give words to those who can’t speak and enable independence for people who would otherwise be forced to rely on others. To celebrate these advancements, Apple debuted a new collection in iTunes Thursday, highlighting apps that take advantage of accessibility features on iOS devices. The selection includes apps that help people with hearing and visual impairments interact with the world around them, those that enable communication for people with autism and apps that encourage learning at all levels.

We talked to some of the developers on the front lines of accessibility about what they’ve learned while creating these powerful apps, here’s what they told us.

1. Design matters — even if your users can’t see your app

Design is a fundamental part of any app. But even the most seasoned software makers find they need to rethink many aspects of design and user experience they would otherwise take for granted. While Apple makes its accessibility tools, like VoiceOver, readily available, developers often find making their app truly accessible requires a much more nuanced approach than what they’re used to.

Winston Chen, a developer with a background in enterprise software, originally created Voice Dream Reader as a way to help him get through his reading list. The app extracts text from web pages, PDFs, ebooks and other files and uses text-to-speech to allow people to listen to their reading lists.

After it was released, Chen began to hear from a group of users he had no idea he was reaching: people with dyslexia. Kids and adults with dyslexia were using the app to for help with reading. He soon decided to focus completely on helping users with special needs and committed to learning about what that entails.

To read the rest of this article, published in Mashable, please click here.