How Apple prioritises inclusion

Date of webinar: February 2021


"The biggest thing I've seen or really appreciated is being able to take accessibility out of the fringes and being able to normalise it into consumer products which has really been the core of what we've tried to do," said Sarah Herrlinger, Senior Director of Global Accessibility, Policy & Initiatives at Apple, discussing accessibility at Apple as she joined us for a conversation in our Accessibility Insights webinar series.


Highlights from the webinar

Robin Christopherson MBE, Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet hosts monthly online chats with individuals who are each working to improve digital accessibility and digital inclusion.

In this session, Sarah discussed Apple's accessibility developments and its experiences with Covid 19, and how the organisation prioritises inclusion.

Watch the full recording below. (View the transcript)

Webinar recording, transcript, podcast and slides

A transcript, slides used in the webinar, podcast, and follow up Q&A responses are available below.

For additional information read answers to frequently asked questions about AbilityNet webinars.

Questions and answers from the webinar

Sarah and Robin responded below to some of the questions that were posed by attendees in the Q&A panel during the webinar:

(NB - There was only time to respond to some of the questions submitted, but you can contact for any further questions.)

Question: Are there apps to increase volume on cell phones for hearing impaired? Is closed captioning available for cell phones?

Sarah Herrlinger (SH): First off, if you haven’t already, we recommend consulting an audiologist or hearing specialist to find the best solution for you. Hearing aid manufacturers and other developers have various apps to support people who’re hard of hearing. There’s also an Apps for Accessibility collection on App Store that includes a hearing section. That includes Rogervoice which is an app for captioning calls.

It’s also worth noting there are nearly 200 different models of Made for iPhone hearing aids and sound processors available which can support hearing and improve the clarity of things like phone and FaceTime calls — all with a reliable Bluetooth connection as opposed to telecom like-type connections.

Robin Christopherson (RC): By default iPhones limit the maximum noise level to prevent hearing damage. This can be turned off in the Accessibility settings. To increase the volume further would require an external speaker or headphones with their own amp and power source. Many apps allow for closed captions and some even allow for live automatic captions too.

Q: With the wide ranging scope accessibility legislation has for hardware and software manufacturers, does Apple work with other Accessibility Teams from other (competitor?) organisations to share knowledge and discuss changing requirements or does your Accessibility Team work solely ‘in-house’?

SH: Irrespective of legislation, accessibility is an area that, more often than you’d think, is defined more by collaboration than competition among Apple and other tech companies.

Q: How can employers use accessibility insights to attract, recruit and support disabled and neurodiverse candidates?

SH: The best bit of advice we try to follow at Apple is understanding that inclusion inspires innovation. Essentially, you’re going to be in a better position to create something insanely great if you have expertise and input from people with a variety of backgrounds — and that includes involving people with disabilities in the development and design of a product.

Q: How are you looking to address the knowledge gap in accessing the different accessibility options and applications available in your products and services?

SH: Well, Accessibility is a top-level category in the Settings menu, making it easy to discover, try out, and customize features with just a tap. We post a variety of resources and information on, including Apple Support regularly posts How To’s and tips, and we have 24/7 dedicated customer support for accessibility questions. We also continue to advocate and promote ways Apple technology can benefit all of our customers.

Q: Can we hear more about how Apple embeds accessibility as a core value? How does Apple support all of its employees in developing awareness, competency and responsibility for accessibility and inclusion in their roles?

SH: It starts with culture. There needs to be a culture of inclusion and valuing both the needs and contributions of a diverse team. Another big factor is whether accessibility as a core value is truly embedded in the actual making of a product. It doesn’t really happen if you think of it as a separate accommodation rather than as a part of how the product should just intrinsically work.

Q: There are more possible combinations of accessibility settings on the iphone than atoms in the universe, so how can somebody explore them all?

SH: We’ve focused on enabling customization and the oppprttunity to layer multiple settings as folks may have multiple disabilities or needs. Making this high degree of personalization possible tends toward giving the user different settings options. We work to order them as clearly as we can as part of the Accessibility settings, along with simple descriptions and directions for how to control them. Also, all are covered via the user guide or

Q: How do you ensure everyone in the company truly understand and internalize accessibility. Is this part of their onboarding or do you have ongoing training?

SH: Here again would go back to the earlier question and the importance of whether this is truly part of your culture. In addition, Accessibility is a value that is communicated and illustrated frequently across the organisation — both at the outset when joining Apple and then continuously during your career at Apple. This includes highlighting it through various employee training sessions.

Q: My son isn’t imagined in the workplace due to his intellectual impairment... I’m interested in accessibility for someone who is slower to process.

RC: Please contact AbilityNet’s Advice and Information Team on or on 0800 048 7642 and they’ll talk it through with you.

Q: Do you have to carry your iphone in your hand for it to detect people (using Lidar) - could be a security risk if using in public?

RC: Yes – although secure chest harnesses are available from many providers online.

Q: It would be amazing if Lidar might one day be powerful enough to enable a blind person to cross the road safely, perhaps initially when using light controlled crossings - i.e. to check crossing light is green and traffic - including cyclists - has actually stopped.

RC: Lidar in iPhones is good at telling shapes (within 15ft at present) but isn’t a camera and hence couldn’t tell the colour of lights or other objects. Plenty of scope with both sensors and advancing AI to assist with mobility for those with a vision impairment.

Q: The lidar - is it built into the camera itself or do you access it by Accessibility?

RC: You can access it via the normal camera app’s viewfinder, or you can use apps like the free Seeing AI which also provides useful feedback for blind users.

Q: Does Apple support any external cameras? Would be really useful when out and about without getting your phone out.

(RC): See above.

Further resources

Date of webinar: 
16 Feb 2021 - 13:00