This is the eighth post in our annual 12-part series covering the accessibility features we would like to see Apple bring to its products in the coming year. This series is being put together by Accessibility Editor Alex Jurgensen, with the help of several contributors.
For the eighth request of Christmas, we ask Apple to give to us:
8. A Camera Accessory and FaceTime App for the Apple TV
When Apple announced iPhone 4 and FaceTime at the 2010 Apple Keynote, it opened up the possibility for deaf and hard of hearing iPhone users to communicate over video calls using Sign Language. AT&T was quick to release it's video relay service, an app that connected iPhone users to telephone calls using a video call and a remote American Sign Language interpreter. The deaf and hard of hearing community got really excited at this prospect. In the years since, FaceTime and other video calling services have only served to expand the possibilities for communicating via Sign Language.
When Apple introduced AirPlay Mirroring as a feature of the then-upcoming iOS 5 in 2011, it set the stage for an intriguing possibility. All of the sudden, partially sighted iOS users would be able to wirelessly stream the contents of their screens to a TV for easier viewing. This technique for magnification has since been used by countless users. Some have even used it in concert with iOS's built-in Zoom capabilities for even more magnification on the big screen. A natural pairing for these setups are for use in video calls, where some partially sighted users can take advantage of the large, magnified screen to make out the other party.
What we would like to see is for Apple to build a camera for use with the Apple TV. To find an example of what a possible design for such a camera would look like, we need look no further than Apple's now discontinued FireWire iSight camera (pictured at the top of this post) for older Macs that lacked a built-in camera. The camera shipped with a clip for mounting it to the top of a laptop screen and a stand to set it on. Of course, getting rid of the cable and going wireless would be a great improvement. Alternately, Apple could open up the Apple TV platform to allow 3rd-parties to create a camera accessory.
We'd further like to see Apple port FaceTime to the Apple TV to foster video communication between users in much the same way FaceTime has on iOS and Mac for assistive technology and non-assistive technology users alike. Bringing a camera to the Apple TV and letting developers have access to it would take these interactions to all new levels. The sky is the limit, but it all starts with opening up access to hardware.
For more things we'd like Apple to include in upcoming releases, please see:
Accessible Apple articles take a significant amount of volunteer effort to put together. This year, we ask readers to consider making a donation to support the development of an independent living skills training centre for training Canadians who are blind, partially sighted, and deaf blind in independent living skills such as assistive technology, literacy, independent travel, cooking, etc. These skills are essential and training centres help provide them. More information and donation links can be found here.