Human Interest

Blind Apple software engineer defied the odds from birth

Four years ago she acquired her first Mac computer; now she’s an engineer at Apple. And she happens to be blind. Jordyn Castor’s real success began long before her engineering degree from Michigan State University (MSU) last December.

Castor was born weighing less than two pounds, almost four months early. Being alive was the first proof of her resilience and perseverance. But the Apple software engineer has done much more than survive. She has thrived, and being blind hasn’t slowed her down.

feature written about her in college noted:

The lifesaving acts performed in a neonatal intensive care unit in Grand Rapids, Michigan, caused Castor’s retinas to detach. This left her completely blind and set in motion an unforeseen chain of events that would shape Castor’s life and inevitably the lives of others.

Castor’s college success defied the odds even by being in the engineering program at MSU. The top-ranked university noted in the story about her in 2014 that “At MSU fewer than 13 percent of the students studying computer science are female.”

So Castor, a blind female in engineering school, proved to be part miracle and part warrior. And Apple figured that out early on.

Mashable reports that “her parents encouraged her to defy expectations of people with disabilities, motivating her to be adventurous, hands-on and insatiably curious.” At 17, she fell in love with the iPad she was given because it was accessible to her as a blind person–right out of the box. This is something she would share with Apple at a job fair last year. She may have been impressed with Apple, but the feeling was mutual–Apple was impressed with her. As the Mashable story notes:

At that job fair in 2015, Castor’s passion for accessibility and Apple was evident. She was soon hired as an intern focusing on VoiceOver accessibility.

As her internship came to a close, Castor’s skills as an engineer and advocate for tech accessibility were too commanding to let go. She was hired full-time as an engineer on the accessibility design and quality team — a group of people Castor describes as “passionate” and “dedicated.”

Castor is excited that she can actually focus on her love of engineering and serve the blind community, all in the same job. Mashable reports on one of the projects she has worked on at Apple:

She was a driving force behind accessibility on Apple’s soon-to-be released Swift Playgrounds, an intro-to-coding program geared toward children. She’s been working to make the program accessible to blind children, who have been waiting a long time for the tool, she says.

“I would constantly get Facebook messages from so many parents of blind children, saying, ‘My child wants to code so badly. Do you know of a way that they can do that?'” Castor says. “Now, when it’s released, I can say, ‘Absolutely, absolutely they can start coding.'”

But Castor has been impressing other professional organizations even before Apple.

MSU featured Castor in this video, where she shares about obtaining her internship at Goldman Sachs.

It’s likely if Apple hadn’t snatched her up out of school, there would have been a line of others waiting to hire her. And it’s not only on the job that Castor has never let being blind stop her. In fact, in her personal life she has done things that even some who can see might be reticent to try, like skiing. USA Today reported last year:

For spring break, Jordyn Castor, a Michigan State University computer science senior, went skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming. That may sound like an average spring break, but there’s a kicker — she’s blind.

“I think a lot of people think, ‘Oh, you’re blind. I don’t think it’s possible for you to ski,’” Castor says. “But I just have such a sense of adventure and I love showing people that a disability doesn’t have to hold you back.”

Castor tweeted recently:

From the doctors who told her parents she had little chance of surviving to the naysayers who thought she couldn’t succeed and have a “normal” life, Castor is the first to see that those who matter most are blind to the fact she can’t see.

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