Advocates for blind, deaf want even more from Apple

“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.'”

Read more in the full article here.

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

Related articles:
OS X Mavericks: How to control your Mac with your voice – April 9, 2014
Can Apple help make hearing aids cool? – March 10, 2014
Apple files new patents relating to haptics, Thunderbolt, iSight and improved accessibility for the hearing impaired – August 23, 2012
Inside Apple’s OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion: New iOS-style Accessibility – July 18, 2012
Stevie Wonder thanks Steve Jobs, praises Apple for iOS accessibility – September 15, 2011
Good news for music fans with vision loss: Apple adds accessibility features to iPod nano and iTunes – September 18, 2008


  1. Tread easy – Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

    Apple is the champion of Accesibility for the handicapped, I wouldn’t alienate them or cause un neccessary rancor…

    1. Apple may well be working on this issue.
      Do not forget that with the launch of Swift, many apps may have to be re-written and so may offer that capability being asked for.
      I guess the main request ought to be to ask Apple inc. to develop an SDK to cater for special needs that can then be deployed into future Swift released products and for Apple inc to curate each app to ensure that it complies with accessibility issues.

      Just saying………………………………………..

  2. “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it _universally_ accessible and useful. ” … at least that’s what Google says.

    Shouldn’t they held to at least the same level these organisations demand from Apple?

    1. Thanks for saving me the trouble. I was going to say exactly that. Where is this demand for android and windows devices that don’t even remotely offer what Apple currently has. Yet these “advocates” want more from Apple?????

  3. Just like many other issues, Apple is doing better than many/most of its competitors. But, with great power comes great responsibility. 🙂 It makes sense for activists to push Apple to make things even better. It sounds like these folks are not plan to attack Apple, but instead trying to push in a friendly way, based on Apple’s good work so far.
    Asking Apple to apply some pressure on developers is very reasonable, and arguably in line with Apple’s own interests, as well as being the right thing to do. An accessibility rating system in the App Store makes a lot of sense. I think its obvious there are many ways the App Store needs to be improved – this sounds like one way. Apple might be able to think of other ways to convince developers to do the right things and actually _use_ the accessibility features it includes in the developer tools.
    Of course other companies should do the right thing, too. It makes sense to push those who are clearly the industry pioneers and innovators.

    Activists groups focusing on Apple is a compliment to Apple – it means everyone sees Apple as the place where pushing will do the most good for the most people. Many companies can’t even make their products accessible to a person who doesn’t have accessibility concerns, right? 🙂

    1. They are not “asking Apple” the article mentions the possibility of suing Apple…

      Surely in a sane world if others are doing much worse than Apple in issues like accessibility they would be the ones that need the biggest push.

      1. In a sane world, advocates for an issue use strategies that produce the best possible experience for the most people. If Android is terrible on accessibility and Google hasn’t been very responsive (as far as actually getting it done), then users can just pick the better product – iOS. If even that better solution could be improved, why waste time pushing those who have shown they don’t care much about your issue? Why not focus on improving the one that is already far better?
        In other words, if there was something in Mac OS X or iOS that could be improved and users who LOVE those operating systems were pointing that out and asking Apple to do something, would you really tell those users “Why don’t you go pester Microsoft instead? Windows sucks!”
        I don’t think you would (it would be sad if you did). I think you are concern-trolling. Look it up.

  4. “‘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.’”

    WOW, sounds like Windows forever in everything.

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