Jordyn Zimmerman talks about her recent appearance on CBS News and Apple’s accessibility in an interview

Jordyn Zimmerman talks about her recent appearance on CBS News and Apple’s accessibility in an interview

Earlier this month, CBS News’ Jamie Wax published an interview with well-known and widely respected disability educator and advocate Jordyn Zimmerman. Zimmerman, whom I have known personally for some time and last saw in late January in Orlando while speaking on stage at this year’s ATIA conference, spoke to the network about her life and how she was excluded from using the augmentative communication until he was 18 years old. Zimmerman, now 29 and autistic and nonverbal, told Wax that technology, specifically Apple iPads, has given him “a lot of confidence to really connect with people.” The effects were so profound for Zimmerman that the technology helped transform the relationship he has with his brother, with whom companionship was non-existent due to the communication barrier between them. It was a quintessential defining moment, made possible by the marvel known as modern technology.

Zimmerman, who appears in the 2021 documentary This is not about me and named as one of President Biden’s appointees to the Presidential Committee on People with Intellectual Disabilities the following year, has been hailed as someone “who can change the world” after one of her many presentations on the importance of prioritizing education. disability inclusion.

Now, serendipitously exactly one week since Apple, as is its tradition, marked this year’s World Accessibility Awareness Day by announcing a host of upcoming accessibility features for its panoply of platforms, Zimmerman and I reconnected via email email to discuss the aforementioned interview and more. He explained that his inclination to accept the interview with CBS News came down to what he does best: advocate. He said his experience of not being able to reliably communicate with others is frustratingly “very common” for other people facing similar circumstances. This sense of community and connection motivates Zimmerman to continue sharing her story: she is determined to ensure that, for future generations, “people have access to the accessible technology they need or can benefit from.”

“I also believe that for inclusive and accessible designs to exist, we need people who not only recognize and understand this work, but who have also experienced exclusion from access,” Zimmerman said. “I’m hopeful that the conversation (about communicative equality) is just the beginning.”

As the CBS News interview covers well, and which includes comments from Apple’s senior director of global accessibility policy and initiatives, Sarah Herrlinger, Zimmerman told me that he sits firmly in Apple Land when it comes to the technology everyone chooses to use. the days. Like many others, he uses a large number of the company’s devices, from his iPhone to his Apple Watch, to the iPad mini and the MacBook. Each product, she added, has a discrete purpose based on need and/or activity, although naturally there is some overlap. Additionally, Zimmerman makes heavy use of the many accessibility features in iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and watchOS; Zimmerman also sees an overlap there because many of the core technologies (such as APIs) are shared across Apple’s entire operating system constellation. To use it, Zimmerman said he especially uses accessibility software that pertains to developmental domains such as speech and physical motor skills. Accessibility features, she told me, “allow a lot of access to the community, whether it’s communication, social, work, or regulatory.”

Laying out the built-in accessibility features of Apple devices, Zimmerman said he feels the company’s recent announcement that eye tracking will soon be coming to iOS and iPadOS is “unbelievable” news for many people. This is especially true, he said, considering that a person doesn’t need to get additional accessories for it to work. He enthused that he knows many people who, with the advent of eye tracking, “may not have to jump through the hurdles that have contributed to denied communication,” adding that “it could really help democratize that access to technology across the board.” the world”. Elsewhere, Zimmerman told me that she’s also looking forward to other functionality, saying that she’s interested to see how “things will continue to be developed, refined, and used in innovative ways.” To that end, Ella Zimmerman said she’s excited to see how haptic feedback can be further leveraged to help “those of us who don’t speak or can’t respond to speech to communicate.”

Coming full circle, agreeing to an on-the-record interview with a major national media outlet was a big deal for Zimmerman and the disability community at large. Zimmerman said disability representation in the media has made progress, but cautioned that “we have a long way to go to dismantle many of the dark narratives that continue to prevail in the media about disability.” Additionally, he noted that the disparity is even more pronounced for those like her in the non-speaking community; There, he said, there is “even less chance of finding someone with whom we relate or with whom our history shows us as humans, you know, living vibrant lives.”