Accessibility at Work: Apple Store in Germany

Chema Dec. 7, 2018

Outbarriers Consultancy In collaboration with Intesia, a German company of integral services, we have developed a research and development project to improve the accessibility and integration of blind employees in the Apple Store in Germany.

The need

Through the Contact form of Outbarriers, Marta @ Intesia contacted us asking if our technology could help solve a problem that one of her clients had: in Germany: Apple Store.

It turns out that in an Apple Store had come to work a practically blind person (still has remnants of vision) and had mobility problems to move around the premises of the store.

Specifically there is a door that divides the customer service area and the warehouse. This door is very camouflaged in the environment, it weighs a lot and does not make noise.

The problem is that the door is opening and closing often and this worker moves around the store without a cane but does not know when the door is open or closed and goes with fear and without security.

Could we give you a solution by applying our experience and research?

The research

To be able to give an effective solution, the first thing was to know well the needs of the client and how is their day to day by the store.

Intesia was in charge of interviewing the employee and transferring his inputs.

The challenge was that using Outbarriers technology along with COTS technology to make the employee know if the door was open or closed directly from his iPhone and/or Apple Watch.

The main subproblems to solve were two.

On the one hand, it was essential to detect in real time when the door was closed or was open.

Then, that information had to be notified with a UI/UX specially designed for the scenario.

After a time of investigation, we found the solution.

The solution

The final architecture was formed by an app written in Swift with extension for Apple Watch 3, an Outbarriers beacon and an open/closed door sensor with integration to HomeKit.

Picture of ElGato open door sensor installed on a door

The two IoT devices that are used use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to communicate with the iPhone and Apple Watch.

The app therefore integrates the Outbarriers SDK and the Apple Homekit SDK for open and closed door detection.

In the beginning, the asynchronous notification system that the Homekit API provided was used. But it had to be changed by polling because a lot of times there was a delay since the door opened or closed until the iPhone was notified.

To notify the user of the status of the door, we first opted for a series of distinct beeps sounds.
Despite working, this solution is not 100% effective. The user wanted to know the status of the door.

Finally it is solved by incorporating a generator of synthetic tones into the app. In this way, when there was a change of state in the door, the tone generator changes the tone but always continuously, always listening to one sound or the other.

Conclusion

We thank Intesia for their trust in us. It has been a pleasure to collaborate with them and offer this accessible solution.

We are very happy with the work and especially with being able to help in the integration of workers with functional diversity. That there are no barriers for anyone, neither to live nor to work.

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