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Accessibility Workflows with Jamf Pro
September 28, 2023 by Haddayr Copley-Woods

Accessibility Workflows with Jamf Pro

This JNUC session taught attendees how to use Jamf Pro and Self Service to assist users with choosing accessibility settings. The team also discussed settings that admins can apply to teams without anyone needing to disclose a disability.

Sales engineers Hector Ibarraran and Don Mueller joined Kelly Offerman, Senior Business Development Executive, Healthcare, to discuss Apple accessibility features and implementation workflows in Jamf Pro — from a professional and personal point of view. Each person described themselves visually for those in attendance with visual impairments.

Kelly Offerman introduced herself as a person with learning differences. “I have dyslexia,“ explained Offerman. ”I rely on Apple’s Accessibility features to help me adapt.” Hector Ibarraran mentioned a limb difference in his left arm, and Don Mueller spoke about his severe-to-profound hearing loss. ”I use Apple technologies daily to help with my deafness,” said Mueller.

Disability as a powerful asset

The team started out with a quote from the late, great neurologist and author Oliver Sacks.

“I wish for a world that views disability, mental or physical, not as a hindrance but as unique attributes that can be seen as powerful assets if given the right opportunities.”

“This resonates, said Offerman, “because even though we are here to talk about accessibility in technology, we do not want people to think of accessibility as a hindrance. It's about tapping into individual strengths, as we all have different perspectives.”

“We want to acknowledge something here,” she continued. “Through our personal experiences and the stories we hear, we know [implementing accommodations] can be challenging. We know it takes work to provide an inclusive environment, and changing our thinking from ‘hindrance’ to ‘asset’ can go a long way.”

“Mistakes can happen along the way,” she said, “but it's better to explore what is possible and to be transparent when we fail.”

“What we are sharing here are ideas of what's possible,” she continued. “This effort does involve collaboration and at least taking steps toward an inclusive environment. It's not an easy ‘fix and done’ deal. It's an ongoing process toward making things accessible for everyone.”

The impacts of disability

Nearly 15 percent of the world’s population – one billion people – experience some form of disability.

The word ‘disability’ covers a great deal of territory.

“Folks can be born with a disability, acquire it over time or in many cases can be temporary,” said Offerman, “like breaking a leg or injuring your hand.” In these cases, a person might need a wheelchair or crutches, or an injured hand might require temporary use of speech-to-text for emails, etc.”

However, a 2018 study by Accenture found that only around 29% of working-age people with disabilities have work, and the unemployment rate for this group is more than twice as high as for people without disabilities.

This isn’t simply because disabilities leave people unable to work. Some of these statistics can be attributed to plain old disablist assumptions about the capability of disabled people in general. Some can be attributed to organizations that are worried about how to accommodate disabled workers.

The financial power of accommodations

Accenture’s study also found an untapped talent pool of 10.7 million people that could strengthen U.S. businesses and our economy. In fact, just a 1% increase in the number of people with disabilities in the workforce would boost GDP by $25 billion.

Accommodations or workflow adjustments can benefit economies, companies and individuals. “For example,” said Offerman, “using text-to-speech and speech-to-text,” which is what she uses on an iPad to complete her work.

Accenture’s report on the high percentage of disabled people out of work doesn’t surprise Offerman.

“Personally,” said Offerman, “I can understand this. A major reason I hesitated to join a corporate environment was because I didn’t know if I would have access to some of my required technology. Finding an organization that supported users with Apple devices was a requirement for me when I was looking to switch careers.”

“If I didn’t have access to the technology that enabled me to complete my degree,” continued Offerman, I would still be working a physically and emotionally demanding job earning under the poverty line— which, sadly, is not a unique experience.”

Statistics bear this out, as well: according to the World Bank, “Persons with disabilities are more likely to experience adverse socioeconomic outcomes such as less education, poorer health outcomes, lower levels of employment, and higher poverty rates.”

To disclose or not disclose?

The decision to disclose a disability in the workplace can be a very difficult one. Many disabled people rightly fear that when their employers discover their disabilities, they will refuse to accommodate them or will find ways to fire them — regardless of laws meant to prevent this.

”Think of how those lives [workers with disabilities] could benefit personally by getting more accommodations on their terms,” said Offerman, “without being in a position to feel required to disclose their needs.”

But how can we support their individual needs without requiring them to disclose?

With universally available accommodation tools such as those offered by Apple.

Different ways to reach the same goal

Don Mueller helped to explain to the attendees how universally available accommodations work— many right under their noses.

“Let’s think about something we see daily,” said Mueller. “We see stairs everywhere. We all know that the purpose of stairs is to provide access to a different level —up or down— from where we are.”

In some cases, you know that you’ll see escalators or elevators. “Many of us may have taken different paths to get to the exhibit hall to another floor to join into sessions, like this one,” continued Mueller. “For some, it's a convenience, but for others, it's a need-- whether it’s obvious to others or a hidden disability. These have the same outcome, allowing all individuals to succeed with the necessary access.”

Getting the word out

But when we talk about tools with built-in accessibility capabilities, those are not necessarily visible for everyone to see.

“The existence of accessibility tools,” continued Mueller, “are often spread by word of mouth, or maybe you come across a website where you can learn more about it.”

The team held this seminar to help spread the word about what is possible with Apple and Jamf.

“How many of you have checked out apple.com?” asked Mueller.

Many hands raised.

“How many of you know about apple.com/accessibility?”

Far fewer hands went up.

Sharing Apple’s built-in capabilities with colleagues, friends, and family members, all three of the presenters have been amazed to hear that few knew that the features existed, or how easy they were to use.

“Some may share that they have some form of disability that wasn’t visible, and these features their lives easier,” said Mueller. “Some use specific features because they’re so cool, but over time it becomes a need because of hearing loss and limited mobility that comes with aging.”

The Shortcuts app

Apple has created a way to help bring awareness to these features by embedding information in their Shortcuts app. Apple makes this readily available for all users to learn about what's possible. If you didn’t know this, apple has made this shortcut app available on Mac, iPad and iPhone for all end-users to explore.

Images of accessibility shortcuts from Apple

Last year: iOS

“Last year, we did a presentation on all things iOS and accessibility,” said Mueller. “In this presentation, we shared our personal experiences of how we used these technologies to make our lives easier.”

The presentation also showcased how Apple admins can use Jamf Pro with Self Service for iOS, combined with Apple’s accessibility shortcuts, to allow end users to select the features they need without having to disclose a disability.

“We took this inclusive approach because Self Service is a powerful tool,” said Mueller.

This year: macOS

This presentation took things a step further, showing how admins can expand easy access to this inclusive environment to all Mac users.

Empower your users

“I’d like to cover some of the really cool things you can do with Apple shortcuts,” said Ibarraran. “Basically, the shortcuts that you can get for iOS, MacOS, and more recently for WatchOS which is pretty cool.”

“The idea here is that shortcuts can be a powerful way for your users to do what they need to do when it comes to accessibility,” continued Ibarraran. “It’s available for everyone to download, but in case people don’t know that they can download these, Self Service can give them a safe environment to look around and see what some of the shortcuts are.”

Hector Ibarraran walked participants through how to share these shortcuts with all users through bookmarks in Self Service, including adding YouTube tutorials for users to watch and including resources such as the ability to choose what impairments or needs they have in shortcuts and to create a report that shows them all of their options.

Admins can also create an entire accessibility section where people can find what they need and to turn on and off accessibility features with configuration profiles.

He also showed participants how complicated having one hand can be when trying to use shift keys and other two-key commands. Then, he showed the audience how sticky keys help him work more easily and efficiently.

“As a community in the accessibility world,” said Don Mueller, “we want more organizations to be able to offer an inclusive workplace and create awareness as to what is possible.”

This is one way to do it.

Selected Q&A

Q: Is there anything you have tried for folks who are colorblind?

A: The iPhone and the iPad have different contrast and color settings that people with color blindness can use to see things better.

Q: I know Reachability is an accessibility feature I can't do without (as a benefactor of the curb effect). Do we have a roadmap for some dream additional features that Apple may introduce that may not already be available in Jamf Pro?

A: Our team is always going through Jamf Nation to improve products based on feedback. If you have thoughts, please share them with us at accessibility@jamf.com.

Q: If all Apple devices have accessibility, why are we sharing them within Self Service?

A: When you unbox your new Mac, you might bypass the accessibility settings at the beginning as there are many other things that you are doing when you’re getting new hardware. It’s good to offer these after the initial setup so that people can find them later on.

Register for JNUC to access this session as well as others on demand.

Photo of Haddayr Copley-Woods
Haddayr Copley-Woods
Haddayr Copley-Woods is a senior copywriter at Jamf. She writes about tech, specializing in Apple and Jamf with a focus on education, accessibility and security.
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