Not because its easy but because it's the right thing to do.
At the yearly keynotes where Apple introduces new versions of iOS, the company has repeatedly made sure to feature accessibility on stage and in video. This year Apple was honored with the Hellen Keller Achievement Award for VoiceOver. The company also honored developers, awarding Workflow with an Apple Design Award for its implementation of accessibility. Over the last few months, Apple has also featured accessibility in the App Store, for Autism Awareness Month, for VoiceOver, and for the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Because of Apple's constant and consistent advocacy and implementation, if you care about assistive technologies and aren't already using one, you should strongly consider switching to iPhone.
Apple not only puts accessibility front and center on apple.com, but the company also has a complete support section, a public resource page, full documentation for developers, and even a terrific tips and tricks page dedicated to it as well.
More than just features
The camera is an example of the approach Apple takes to accessibility. Instead of simply scratching it off the list as something those with low or no vision won't use, Apple tries to make it the camera something they can use.
To help take pictures, the built-in Camera app uses facial recognition to announce how many people it detects in a shot and even where they're positioned on screen. The Photos app will announce the date a photo was taken, whether it's portrait or landscape, and even whether it's crisp or blurry, low or well lit.
That's in addition to Siri voice control, the system-wide VoiceOver technology, built-in Braille support, selection and screen reading, support for descriptive audio, and the plethora of vision enhancement features like inverted colors, black and white, labels, outlines, and more.
The latest iPhones even have a mode where, instead of giving you more pixels, they magnify the size of the pixels, effectively showing you an iPhone 5s interface on an iPhone 6 and an iPhone 6 interface on an iPhone 6 Plus. That can make the entire device easier to read and navigate.
For those with low or no hearing, there are options to use the LED Flash for visual alerts, custom vibrations for tactile alerts, close captioning for media, and built-in FaceTime for communicating with sign language. (Because FaceTime has end-to-end encryption, it's even used in therapy for new recipients of cochlear implants.)
Motor skills are supported with switch controls that can use the camera or an assistive device for input, as well as custom gestures. There's also AssistiveTouch, which provides virtual, on-screen controls for when hardware buttons aren't accessible enough, and a wide range of customization options for multitouch and Home button input.
All of these features not only help those with special needs but children picking up computing for the first time, and seniors whose sight, dexterity, memory, hearing, or other skills are no longer what they used to be.
There are a host of other features as well, and more coming with iOS 9 this fall. There's Guided Access for those on the autistic spectrum, and even full, system-wide support for right-to-left languages, because Accessibility is also about making sure everyone is included.
According to a WebAIM survey, over 65% of people with accessibility needs were already using iOS as their primary mobile platform for screen-reading as of 2014. That's almost two-thirds of the organizations respondents and a good indication of just how well Apple is serving the community.
That's proof that Apple or iOS has "won" the community, however. It's proof Apple has gained confidence from the community but has to work hard to keep it and even harder to grow it.
In previous years, Apple has showcased the blind enjoying the wilderness for the first time thanks to the iPhone, and back in June they showed kids experiencing music for the first time as a tactile sensation. The company has highlighted messages being spoken, sign language being seen, and communication being enabled for the first time.
This spring Apple launched the Watch, which as a first-generation product shipped with an amazing array of accessibility features. As an extension to the iPhone, it can do everything from making notifications to directions available whenever and wherever it's worn. It even had VoiceOver built in from day one, and easy-to-close magnetic straps available to order.
Add in App Store apps, which can all tap into the built-in system features simply by using Apple's frameworks, and which offer dedicated apps for those on the autistic spectrum, those with learning disabilities, and those with a host of other special needs, and the support for accessibility is simply staggering.
Android at its most basic offers various degrees of accessibility support in various versions of their operating systems and devices, some of which require additional downloads, and some of which are still called "experimental." It can vary greatly depending on manufacturer. Some — Samsung and LG — go a good bit farther than others (and farther than stock Android itself).
But no other company has provided as constant and consistent support for accessibility on mobile as Apple, including driving awareness in the most prominent and public ways possible.
It's not magic. It's the result of building it into the corporate culture. It's being willing to invest by having teams whose only job is to ensure the accessibility of the system software and frameworks, and people in the company and community who care enough to propose, approve, and promote accessibility even when it's not, strictly speaking, their job.
Accessibility should be a point of pride and something that's highly competitive between companies. Every platform should feature it on stage every year, feature the best apps on every store, participate in national and global campaigns, and do everything possible to make the devices we use every day easier for everyone to use.
Accessibility for everyone
It's easy to think accessibility only matters for a few people. But the truth is anyone can be injured an need to rely on accessibility features for a period of time. We can get older and need easier ways to see and interact with our devices. We can have family members or friends who need our help.
Moreover, making apps more accessible by definition makes them more usable for everyone. It's a virtuous cycle.
There's never been a better time to switch
When it comes to accessibility, however, Apple's proven they care deeply, they're in it for the long-term, and it's a passionate commitment that comes from the very highest levels of the company. Tim Cook, from early 2014:
When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind, I don't consider the bloody ROI
If accessibility matters to you, or if how a company prioritizes something like accessibility matters to you, check out the iPhone.