My contribution to a better world

On the evening of June 17th, 2011, I received the awaited message by Apple: “Your application has been approved and is ready for sale”, which meant that my Ariadne GPS app was available on the App Store. Work had begun months before when, as I was getting familiar with development tools and with the little knowledge I had of the iPhone, the iPad, etc.

A map on an iPad screen being explored with a fingerI started playing with a map, looking for ways to understand some of its information and have it spoken through voice synthesis. I briefly met the small challenge and, almost with amazement, after a few days I had a talking map and, with a touch, I could listen to the names of streets and cities. How come no one had thought about doing this? Is it possible that at Apple they were satisfied to only hear the word Map spoken by the voice synthesis at the opening of their application? The touch screen for blind people, which so repelled them, was something extraordinary new and innovative for them.

I wanted the world to see it, so in June I decided that the app was ready for the Store. It was not, but the response from the public was impressive. I spent the night up, wanting to reply to the dozens of messages that arrived, but I quickly realized that I had to set up an automatic reply. All of a sudden I was well-known, a recognition only limited to the lists of blind and visually impaired people and to a few blogs mentioning my app, but it touched me to know that somewhere on the other side of the world, someone was trying out Ariadne and taking the time to write me to let me know their opinion.

Luca CiaffoniIn another part of the world, intrigued, someone from Apple, a couple of months after the publication, wrote me to congratulate me and to ask a few questions about the development. I wrote a thank you note. I could not imagine that twice within a year, I had found in my inbox an email with the domain that had not been sent automatically. We urgently need to speak with you about your Ariadne GPS app, said coolly the first words of the email. Was there a problem? Or did they really need to have implementation details? We planned a videoconference for that day at 11:30 at night (Italian time), but it did not work out after all because it was impossible to get all the team members together.
There was even a team to gather up!

The following day, after a 45-minute conversation, I found out the purpose of the email which caused a digestive upset the day before: a video.  Apple wanted to do a video on my app? Was this a joke or was I dreaming?

More than once, during the course of this adventure, I feared that it was not really happening. I knew deep down that it was the real thing, the email addresses, the phone calls from the San Francisco area, but the sensation was so strong it could not be true. One of those times was when, a few days later, I received an email saying that a crew and a few team members would be coming to Bologna to interview me.
Wasn’t it more simple to buy me a ticket to California instead of sending from America thirteen people and a bunch of equipment?

Apparently not.
On May 1st, after a superb buffet organized by my next door neighbour who has supported me since the beginning, together with other friends, my neighbour’s living room was turned into a studio for a two-hour interview.
We went around the city for another two hours with Ariadne and Giovanni Lo Monaco, a meticulous tester and dear friend as well as an endless source of ideas. All this was meant to produce a clip of no more than two minutes in a 10-minute video which would be shown at the World Developers Conference in San Francisco on June 11th.
I was invited to the presentation of the video and, of course, I went.
I remember the feeling of anxiety mixed with the joy I felt while, sitting on the carpet with a thousand square feet window and the San Francisco high rises behind me, I was waiting for the conference doors to open together with journalists.
Since that day, the video has been seen by millions of people and my small challenge has been transformed in an event which brought the attention of people all around the world on the issue of application accessibility for persons with disabilities.
It is my contribution to a better world.

Luca Ciaffoni
[Vedere Oltre – Dicembre 2012]