TikTok sensation Tjarda Struik is almost blind: ‘without Apple I have a serious problem’

TikTok sensation Tjarda Struik tells her more than 150,000 followers every day how life is in practice with only 5% vision. Although it mainly comes down to the ability to adapt yourself, she tells OMT editor Mark Hofman that Apple’s products also play an essential role.

Two weeks ago, I flew to Naples to talk to Sarah Hellinger, Apple’s Director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives, about the idea behind accessibility in the App Store. Entirely dedicated to the International Day of People with Disabilities (December 3), a reason for me to find out how this works out in practice.

Tjarda Struik: TikTok sensation with only 5% visibility

In that respect, Tjarda Struik is the right person to tell me more about this. From the age of six, her sight began to deteriorate, which in thirty years grew to a point where Tjarda can only see 5%.

By the way, she doesn’t sit down with the suits. Tjarda Struik is a municipal councilor in Zeist and has her own company with which she speaks and writes about inclusion. A subject that is close to her heart like no other.

Reply to @Viem This is what I see.

To give that company a little more attention, Tjarda decided to create a TikTok account. A good decision, because what started as marketing has now become an important part of her life.

With more than 150,000 followers on TikTok, she can be called a real influencer. A good thing as far as I’m concerned, because Tjarda uses this position to make it clear to the public what life with a disability can be like.

“Without Apple, I really have a serious problem”

Of course Tjarda Struik is a tough go-getter, but without help it will be difficult. She receives this from her family, but also from Apple and the products that the company makes. A story that I also heard two weeks ago, during my visit to the Developer Academy.

Those kinds of stories always sound very nice in theory, but the practice is what it’s all about. “Without Apple, I have a serious problem,” Tjarda tells me. The first confirmation from many during our conversation about the impact that, among other things, the iPhone has on the lives of people with disabilities.

Incidentally, accessibility is not something of recent years, but actually from the very first model in 2007. “My boyfriend at the time had bought such an iPhone and then I thought it would be absolutely inaccessible to me,” says Tjarda. “I thought great, but I can’t feel those buttons. Only then did I not know that Voice-Over, with which every touch is pronounced, had such added value.”

It’s not just that one function, by the way. “If you wanted to read a book you needed a much bigger book because of braille, you always had to ask for directions and even calling was difficult because you couldn’t see who was calling you. You needed a separate device for everything and now it’s all in one device.”

The question I ask myself, however, is why specifically the iPhone is so special. “You have enough apps from IT companies,” says Tjarda. “Samsung, for example, also has its own interpreter, but no solution is as integrated as with Apple.”

Tjarda Struik puts theory into practice

Tjarda Struik belongs to the large group of users who really rely on the iPhone, but Apple’s focus does not stop there. And also not with Tjarda, who says she owns “really the entire arsenal of Apple”.

Tjarda Struik, TikTok, Apple, iPhone
(Image: Tjarda Struik)

In Naples, Apple executive Sarah Hellinger told me that accessibility features within the ecosystem are extremely important to such consumers. It therefore always wants to motivate developers to take an extra step.

“There’s always talk about why accessibility is an essential part, why it makes a good iPhone app a great app.”

Apple is leading by example in this regard. “For example, I have a MacBook Pro that I can use for my city council work, because I can easily make the image larger or smaller,” says Tjarda.

“Or an iPad for the kids, so I can read to them myself.” Something you just want as a parent. “I then listen to the text, while the children look at the pictures.”

M2 MacBook Pro
Excellent for the home-based professional (Image: Mark Hofman / OMT)

Future music

Whereas Sarah Hellinger mainly talks about motivating other developers, Tjarda Struik seems to benefit mainly from the functionalities of Apple itself.

Although there are applications that support Tjarda in her daily life. “For example, if I have to go from A to B, I cannot read the NS signs. So I just have an app for that,” she says. “

So there are certainly large and well-known applications that can assist Tjarda, but there is still a great lack from the market. “You can imagine that if you see almost nothing, it is difficult to move yourself,” she says,

“It may sound like future music, but I just want to have a device that says: “Watch out, take a step to the right in three meters because there will be a pole”.

Tjarda Struik, TikTok, Apple, iPhone
(Image: Tjarda Struik)

Tjarda Struik makes it clear that we are not there yet

Funny, because during my visit to the Apple Developer Academy I met a young student who is making exactly such an app. In my head a top solution, but Tjarda shows me that theory and practice are still two different things.

“I’m pessimistic about things like this,” she admits. “Because I’ve just seen this a lot of times.” According to Tjarda, this is the problem everyone wants to solve for people with limited vision, so she has already owned a lot of these types of devices.

“In the end, they still can’t get the financing together, or it doesn’t work or it only works in city A or B. And that is always difficult.”

Although the idea is very good, people usually forget the importance of such projects. Where it feels like a failed mission to them as soon as it fails, it is again a disappointment for people like Tjarda.

“I think I’ve already looked at twenty different smart sticks. At a certain point you think: ‘I don’t feel like being asked again about what I want in it and that it will again result in something that doesn’t work’.

While the focus on people with a disability is growing more and more, we are not there yet together.

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