Apple Accessibility Workshops with Merseyside Sight Loss Council Before the lockdown Merseyside Sight Loss Council teamed up with the Liverpool Apple Store, to put on tailored workshops designed to help blind and partially sighted people use Apple devices. Sight Loss Council member Matt Cliff went along to the sessions and blogs about the training visually impaired participants were given. “We were very impressed with our collective experiences and the outcomes gained from our three visits to the Apple Store, organised by Merseyside Sight Loss Council” The visits took place on Tuesday mornings during a quiet time identified by the Apple team. The first session covered Siri and a basic introduction to accessibility. The second session was specifically in relation to VoiceOver accessibility. VoiceOver is the built-in, gesture-based screen reader that ships with iOS devices, designed to help blind and partially sighted people easily navigate a touch screen. The third session covered the more advanced rotor features of VoiceOver. Understanding the trainees The Apple team broke everything down into very simple descriptive terms. orientating everyone around the Apple product in the first instance. For the first workshop, we used iPads and for the others we used iPhones. The Apple team very quickly identified that the needs of visually impaired users would vary depending on both their sight levels and their previous experience with Apple products. They acknowledged VoiceOver would not necessarily be the accessibility feature of choice for someone with more sight. Partially sighted participants, therefore, explored other magnification features which were more beneficial. Siri, on the other hand, had definite benefits for all participants. Understanding the training The lead adviser used a microphone throughout the workshop and ensured that everyone taking part could hear what was taking place in the background. This was brilliant, considering we were in the heart of Liverpool city centre and we could still hear what was going on. The sessions were full of content with at least two members of Apple staff to work with a group of six blind and partially sighted participants which seemed to be an ideal group size and ratio. The advisors were more than willing to learn from the lived experiences of the visually impaired attendees. When the Apple advisors were faced with an array of questions, they were quick to answer and double-check any facts they weren’t sure of. I believe everyone who attended, no matter what their experience level, learnt something at the sessions. Future workshop plans Overall, we have been very impressed with this project. When we are out of lockdown, I look forward to working with the Sight Loss Councils to develop these training sessions further and rolling out regular workshops moving forward. If you are blind or partially sighted and passionate about working to improve the lives of visually impaired people, sign up to become a Sight Loss Council volunteer. Contact us to find out more. About Matt Matt has been visually impaired all of his life as his sight has continually deteriorated. As a visually impaired person, Matt has competed in many sports events ranging from local, grass-roots level games right up to the international stage and was asked to represent England in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006.