Apple highlights diversity at this year’s WWDC in a new press release

Apple has shared a new press release featuring stories from developers attending this year’s Worldwide Developer Conference under “thousands of stories, one WWDC.”

The release shares two stories from developers on different ends of the spectrum, the first Erika Hairston, who is a 23-year-old Yale grad working in San Francisco, just launched her first app, Zimela, to promote diversity in technology.

David Niemeijer, on the other hand, will make his 17th consecutive visit to WWDC. He is the CEO of AssistiveWare, a business he founded 20 years ago that designs communication aids for people with disabilities.

“Both were inspired by someone they love to imagine solutions, and then started working on making them real,” Apple says in its release. “Both began as companies of one, coding in their spare time wherever and whenever they could. And both are connecting and empowering communities, using technology to help people find their voice and each other.”

David’s Story

“Two days before Christmas, 1995, David Niemeijer’s close friend Giesbert Nijhuis was in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. Nijhuis, who was 26 at the time, had been working as an illustrator and photographer, and after the accident lost hope that he could continue his career.”

“Niemeijer wanted to help his friend regain his independence and designed a virtual keyboard that could be controlled using a mouse alternative — like the one Nijhuis had been using since the accident, which he directed with head movements. Nijhuis provided substantial feedback on the user experience in those early years.”

“Niemeijer’s virtual keyboard, coded in his spare time out of his apartment, became the program KeyStrokes, and in a few years, he was able to quit his job in academia and work on it full-time. When he founded AssistiveWare, Nijhuis used KeyStrokes to design the company’s logo.”

“In 2001, a KeyStrokes user wrote a letter to Steve Jobs. In it, he asked if Apple could help make Niemeijer’s virtual keyboard work in conjunction with the newly launched Mac OS X. That was the beginning of a nearly two-decade relationship with Apple and over that time, AssistiveWare grew from a company of one into the world’s leading provider of assistive technology apps for people with communication challenges.”

Erika’s Story

“Erika Hairston counts herself as the youngest of five siblings — and that includes her foster sister Kimmy. When Kimmy applied and was accepted into a program that connects low-income students to elite high schools, Erika says suddenly her world opened up too.”

“Hairston designed Zimela to help underrepresented groups enter the tech pipeline by establishing mentorships and making users aware of career placement opportunities, like internships. She created the app in her final year at Yale and the name came from the movie “Black Panther” — Zimela is an interpretation of the Xhosa word for representation.”

“After Hairston graduated last year, she moved to San Francisco for a full-time job in Silicon Valley. In her spare time, she codes from her bedroom, her boyfriend’s house in Oakland, and wherever else she can steal a few minutes to prepare Zimela for its launch on the App Store.”

“She recently completed Apple Entrepreneur Camp and is about to attend her first WWDC, both of which she says are perfect examples of the type of opportunities she hopes others will find through Zimela. She’s looking forward to what WWDC will mean for her app, and her future.”

Apple describes this year’s WWDC as a “gathering of dreamers, bound together by a shared belief in the power of technology to positively change the world,” and its latest release explains exactly why it’s one of the biggest events in the technology calendar. Keep it AppleMagazine for the latest on WWDC and live coverage on Monday, June 3, 2019.

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