Thursday, May 19, 2022
Bringing the Latest in News Straight to Your Screen

Why Apple’s Forthcoming Digital ID Feature Is A Big Deal For Accessibility

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at September 3, 2021

In a press release published this week, Apple announced the first eight states to support Apple Wallet’s upcoming identification card functionality, which is new to iOS 15. The company said Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah are “among the first states” to offer the feature to residents.

“The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will enable select airport security checkpoints and lanes in participating airports as the first locations customers can use their driver’s license or state ID in Wallet,” Apple said in the press release. “Built with privacy at the forefront, Wallet provides a more secure and convenient way for customers to present their driver’s licenses and state IDs on iPhone or Apple Watch.”

Daring Fireball’s John Gruber has a good overview of the announcement, with details about how the feature works (especially with Touch ID) after a briefing with Apple.

Apple describes the ID feature as “an easy, fast, and more secure way for people to present their driver’s license or state ID using their iPhone or Apple Watch.” As always, however, it will have a meaningful effect on accessibility as well. In the same way Apple Pay makes paying for things—whether physically or digitally—more accessible by eliminating the need for finding and using a tactile credit card, that the Wallet app now supports identification cards eliminates the same sort of cognitive and physical friction for many disabled people. It is a huge development in that context.

As I’ve written in the past, an unheralded aspect of Apple Pay’s ingenious design is how it makes payments virtually effortless for disabled people. The accessibility gains are not insignificant: if you’re someone with a cognitive delay or less-than-stellar fine-motor skills or have vision loss—or some combination thereof, as I do—then Apple Pay truly is a godsend. No longer must you clumsily fumble around your wallet, trying to remember where you put it, and then struggle to read the number or expiration date. With Apple Pay, you double-click the side button on your iPhone (or Apple Watch) and hold it near the NFC reader. A chime and haptic buzz confirms the action.

As CEO Tim Cook said introducing Apple Pay seven years ago, that’s it.

So it goes with IDs in Wallet. Instead of fumbling through your wallet trying to find it, you simply hold your phone nearest an NFC reader. Again, that’s it. The accessibility wins cannot be overstated; particularly for those who have fine-motor delays, the digitization of credit cards (and now IDs) goes beyond mere convenience or even privacy. It turns a seemingly mundane task for most abled people—using a credit card, showing ID—into something far more accessible for countless others. Apple’s years-long march towards ostensibly rendering physical wallets obsolete is a prime example of how a mass market feature, extolled as “fast, easy, and secure,” can have major ramifications for accessibility despite not being discretely designed for such.

Cook also said at Apple Pay’s unveiling, “this is exactly what Apple does best.” That wasn’t PR spin or an overstatement. The thoughtfulness and cleverness of the Wallet system’s design is a quintessential example of Apple at its zenith. That it’s so good for accessibility without requiring any special modes or settings is proof.

I, for one, am eagerly awaiting for California to adopt digital IDs.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.