Steve Jobs’ Legacy

There’s plenty of posts and testimonials about Steve Jobs, as there should be. I wanted to say here how much he truly did for the worldwide community of people with various disabilities and learning differences. Apple’s ease of use and its features that help all of us, but particularly help people with disabilities was never really touted that much but made a huge impact. Just like the brilliance of much of Apple’s technology, the power of it’s “disability features” went further and further into the background, and so became easier and more powerful.

If you watch the video of the new iPhone personal assistant Siri, you may barely notice that the woman listening to her message (instead of reading it) and then replying (and Siri putting and sending her spoken words into text) via text message, is blind (she’s reading braille).

Steve and Apple have done so much for me, and for my students who learn differently. We wish the family well.

About Sanford

Learning Disabilities specialist and Educational Consultant
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3 Responses to Steve Jobs’ Legacy

  1. Richard says:

    Sandy: As you no doubt know, I’ve been an evangelist for the Macintosh in the learning disabilities world since 1984 and have never let up since. That’s how I met Steve Jobs and got my first Mac and for ten years after that I attempted to act as a bridge between Apple and the learning disabilities world.

    When Jobs left Apple and then came back in 1989-90, he dissolved Apple’s disabilities group of which I was as advisor and put the focus on making the system more accessible right out of the box. It was a very good move and as you say, at this point the Macintosh and iOS accessibility features are so integrated into the system that few would feel humiliated using them.

    Siri is a great example of this: a cool technology that makes the iPhone more useful for anyone and useable for someone who can’t see well enough to hit buttons. Brilliant.

  2. Emily Smith says:

    I think the things that stop or significantly impede people with any sorts of differences frequently get in the way of everybody else — they just never quite notice because they can go around or overcome what is for them a small inconvenience. I think Steve Jobs realized that the things that make technology accessible for the outliers make technology better for everyone.

    People were critical of what they saw as paltry charity from Jobs when they were editorializing as he retired as Apple CEO just weeks ago. I think the man who made accessible technology that used to cost $10,000 cost <$1000 instead deserves more credit than those giving away money as a tax write-off. The fact that suddenly there are a lot of people who already have accessible technology whether they have been labeled "different" or "disabled" or not counts for more than giving money away. He didn't offload the responsibility to make the world better by writing checks to someone else, he went ahead and did it himself. But what he did was genius in that he empowered others to make their world better for themselves, just by paying attention and giving them good tools to work with.

    The financial and technical accessibility of the things Steve Jobs gave the world, especially when compared to most other products marketed as such, has not yet fully revealed or reached the zenith its impact on the world. I believe this technology has the very possible potential of turning the world upside-down with the communications enfranchisement of people (from all sorts of backgrounds) that previously had no access to the technological tools and communications infrastructure that others take for granted. I think used iPhones and iPads have a far better chance of widespread deployment to developing countries than "One Laptop Per Child" has the likelihood of achieving, and it's a sly secondary effect of staggering success in the traditional capitalist framework.

    And I believe this is not an unintended side-effect. I believe Steve Jobs was both able to see the fissures and pressure points and possibilities in people and systems and able to shift them to the advantage of everyone. He had the unique insights, work ethic, and opportunities that gave him the power to make the world better and then he did exactly that.

    More, this man made a company that defined itself as the ally of "the round pegs in the square holes," I believe that he knew what it was like to be a peg that doesn't fit and that gave him both insight and compassion that made Apple's commitment to accessibility something that was deeper and more meaningful than shrewd business or condescending pity. Steve Jobs believed in what bridging and building on those differences could empower and create and I think we are just on the cusp of seeing the full realization of the possibilities he could envision.

  3. Richard says:

    Well said Emily. I do think Jobs was a closet subversive (he called himself a “pirate” at times) who thought getting technology into more hands would level the playing field of life for all.

    It certainly is working and he saw quite a shift during his lifetime. No doubt it will shift even more.

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