“Advocates for the blind are debating whether to use a carrot or a stick to persuade one of their oldest allies, Apple Inc, to close an emerging digital divide in mobile technology,” Christina Farr reports for Reuters. “As digital life increasingly moves to the world of smartphones and tablets, some disabled people with visual, hearing and other impairments are feeling more left out than ever.”

“Many disabled advocates believe federal law requires that apps be accessible, but courts have not ruled on the issue. Few disabled want to risk alienating Apple, considered a friend, by fighting it,” Farr reports. “Mobile apps that work well can transform a blind person’s life… But when apps don’t work, life can grind to a stop. Jonathan Lyens, a San Francisco city employee, who is legally blind, has a hard time browsing jobs on professional networking site LinkedIn. ‘The app is insane. Buttons aren’t labeled. It’s difficult to navigate,’ said Lyens. When it comes to social media apps, new problems arise with every release, he said. ‘I get nervous every time I hit the update button.’ LinkedIn has hired an accessibility chief, Jennison Asuncion, who himself is blind, and says it is working to improve the app.”

“Still, advocates of the disabled want the problem solved by the company at the center of the app world — Apple. Rival Google Inc, whose Android operating system drives more phones than Apple, is also under pressure, but as the creator of the modern smartphone and a long-time champion for the blind, Apple is feeling the most heat,” Farr reports. “Apple and Google both have developer guidelines on how to make features accessible, such as labeling buttons that can be read by Apple’s VoiceOver software. But they don’t require accessibility… Nor do they offer an accessibility rating system, which some disabled advocates say would be a big help.”

“At last week’s National Federation of the Blind convention, members approved a resolution to press Apple to create and enforce accessibility standards,” Farr reports. “Apple’s next version of its phone operating system, iOS 8, will have a “speak screen” features that reads whatever is on the screen, improved zoom, and support for hearing aids for hearing impaired made by companies including ReSound. Apple helped develop the hearing aid. Howard Rosenblum, chief executive officer of the National Association of the Deaf, wants more. ‘Any app should be accessible to everyone,” he said.'”

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MacDailyNews Take:

There is nothing that you can do on the iPhone or iPad that I can’t do. Stevie Wonder, praising Steve Jobs and Apple over accessibility, September 2011

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