Open call for an Accessibility passport to easily set up a new device

An interaction experiment for easier transfer of accessibility settings across devices and platforms.

I was recently setting up an Apple Vision Pro with someone who has a visual impairment. I quickly realised how cumbersome it is to set up your accessibility settings on a new device. Even though he had an iPhone and a MacBook with all his preferred accessibility settings, there was no easy way to import them. In order to set the accessibility settings on the Vision Pro, he needed to calibrate the device to be able to change them. To calibrate the device… he needed his accessibility settings. Oh no.

Most operating systems these days offer a wide variety of accessibility settings. Especially Apple has made accessibility a first-class citizen and this resulted in lots of granularity in how you can set up a device in the best possible way for you — and possibly any impairments you may have. Having so many options with lots of granularity does come at a cost: setting it up from scratch is a pain in the butt. Apple’s new VisionOS is no different and thus offers many settings for all kinds of impairments.

Quick mock-up of how it could be integrated in iOS Accessibility settings. It would be great if you could easily import your accessibility settings from one device to another. Especially if you are moving from one OS to another, like from iOS to VisionOS or from iOS to Android. Since most devices these days have a camera, using a QR-code could be a simple way to do so. This technique is used in many applications already with the GoPro being a well-known example.

Quick mock-up of what the interaction on the Vision Pro could look like. In comes the Accessibility Passport. An easy way to encode your specific accessibility settings across devices and across platforms. The QR-code holds all your accessibility settings. The new device could then import all relevant (and compatible) settings so you can get set-up much quicker, without having to go through every option.

To make it truly cross-platform, we’d need a set of accessibility settings that are platform-independent. If you want the screen reader to be on, it should be on, whether it’s VoiceOver or TalkBack. I think that’s still pretty doable. The really hard part is it needs to get baked in in all major OSs, to be really useful.

I’d like to hear from you!

I am by no means an accessibility expert. I wrote this piece in the first place as a conversation starter after having observed the difficulties first hand. Does this make sense? Is it a dumb idea? Is it really needed? Let me know in the comments or reach out on Twitter or LinkedIn!