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National Federation of the Blind pushes Apple to add accessibility requirements for apps [U]

post #1 of 91
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Members of the National Federation of the Blind have approved a resolution that will have the advocacy group, which successfully sued Apple over iTunes in 2008, begin a new campaign designed to convince the iPhone maker to consider accessibility when approving apps for sale in the App Store.

A trio of accessibility apps available for iOS, including BrailleTouch, Color Identifier, and Light Detector
A trio of accessibility apps available for iOS, including BrailleTouch, Color Identifier, and Light Detector


While the resolution -- which was approved during last week's NFB convention in Orlando, Fla. -- does not call for a repeat of the 2008 litigation that saw Apple pay $250,000 and overhaul iTunes's accessibility features as part of a settlement, Reuters notes that some of the organization's members view such an action as inevitable if Apple fails to implement new accessibility requirements.

"It's time for Apple to step up or we will take the next step," NFB of California board member Michael Hingson told the news service. Hingson said another lawsuit would be "the only resort" to force compliance.

Update: Reuters has corrected its report to note that the NFB did not actually file a lawsuit against Apple in 2008. Further, NFB president Mark A. Riccobono has since issued a statement detailing the actual focus of its resolution and noting that "The issues raised in the resolution are not new."

Riccobono added, "I thought the chatter around the resolution would fade away until some media reports made inaccurate assertions about the resolution, its content, and what actions the NFB will take to carry it out. Many of these inaccurate assertions have been fueled by a provocative and poorly reported article from the Reuters news service, linked here only for reference.

Reuters has already been forced to correct the article because it reported, inaccurately, that the National Federation of the Blind once brought suit against Apple, Inc. This never happened, although a demand letter was sent regarding the accessibility of iTunes and iTunes U, and the Massachusetts Attorney General opened an investigation. Those actions resulted in a voluntary agreement with Apple that was a significant step in getting us the accessibility we experience today."


Apple has made a number of accessibility improvements in recent years, and iOS devices are often described by visually- and hearing-impaired people as having brought dramatic improvements to their quality of life. The company recently featured deaf travel writer Cherie King in an iPad advertisement detailing the tablet's ability to help her travel independently and communicate around the world, for instance.

"My iPad lets me share my journey with the world," King is quoted as saying. "Other deaf people tell me they're traveling more now because they see it's possible."

Blind advocates -- who acknowledge Apple's contributions with features like VoiceOver and the forthcoming screen reading options in iOS 8 -- say the company has not done enough to encourage third-party app makers to follow suit, however. Apps from companies including Bank of America, Southwest Airlines, and Netflix are cited as lacking basic accessibility features like button labels that can be read aloud by VoiceOver, degrading the experience.
post #2 of 91
I get why they would want apps to be accessible, but with the number of apps available, I find it difficult to picture how this would work. If it is simply buttons being VoiceOver accessible, I guess that would be a step in their direction. Yet, without wanting to be insensitive, no one is forcing anyone to use an iPhone, so if it doesn't work for you, don't use it.
post #3 of 91
What law has apple violated here? Why not sue the app maker? Why not sue google?

I'm all for greater accessibility, but I don't quite understand this story...
post #4 of 91
Perhaps compliant apps could be "tagged" or given their own section (if they aren't already)?

To be fair, it is completely the developer's choice to spend the additional time to include accessibility features. If they choose to not spend the additional effort, that's on them.

On the other hand, I'm sure if lawsuits were filed against banks, the banks would lose and have to spend the extra dev time to bring their apps up to speed.

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post #5 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Perhaps compliant apps could be "tagged" or given their own section (if they aren't already)?

To be fair, it is completely the developer's choice to spend the additional time to include accessibility features. If they choose to not spend the additional effort, that's on them.

On the other hand, I'm sure if lawsuits were filed against banks, the banks would lose and have to spend the extra dev time to bring their apps up to speed.

I don't know what laws are in play here. But I would think that if Apple has to do this, then every other company that sells commercial software would have to do it. And so far as I know, that's not the case. 

 

I wonder if the NFB knows their lawsuit threat is bs, but is just trying to use public pressure on Apple. If so, I think that's a pretty bad strategy. 

post #6 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post

I don't know what laws are in play here. But I would think that if Apple has to do this, then every other company that sells commercial software would have to do it. And so far as I know, that's not the case. 

I wonder if the NFB knows their lawsuit threat is bs, but is just trying to use public pressure on Apple. If so, I think that's a pretty bad strategy. 

I suppose if a business/service already had a web site that was compliant, they'd have no real excuse for not doing the same with their app, but I believe compliance is still 100% voluntary.

Perhaps we can get some blind or disabled folks or maybe a lawyer to weigh in with their opinions here?

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post #7 of 91
Apple ought to be sued for not including coloured visual notification lights deaf AND NON-DEAF people can use to see if they missed messages etc.
post #8 of 91
This happened a few days ago (if you are curious, follow the #a11y hashtag on twitter). Although NFB came out with this resolution, a few blind / vision impaired people I follow, were sharing their disgust on how NFB ended up biting the only hand that feeds (or in this case, "enables" people with disabilities).

Here's an audio boo clip of one who felt so disgusted that he recorded it https://audioboo.fm/boos/2305608-go-pick-on-someone-who-needs-it-nfb-nfb14

What no one seems to know, is why NFB doesn't apply the same standards for other platforms (Android, Windows phone etc)?
post #9 of 91
Why not go after Google and Microsoft? On Android most apps are so badly designed its hard to use them when you can see them, let alone when you can't.
post #10 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by toysandme View Post

Apple ought to be sued for not including coloured visual notification lights deaf AND NON-DEAF people can use to see if they missed messages etc.

What I'd love to see for deaf people, and everyone else (sighted) for that matter, is a voice-to-text function that can turn voice messages into readable text. Apple already has the technology for this through Siri and dictation software. All they have to do is make it work with voice messages.

post #11 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post

What law has apple violated here? Why not sue the app maker? Why not sue google?

I'm all for greater accessibility, but I don't quite understand this story...

I don't understand their position here either. Like you I believe accessibility is important but there are limits. What is perplexing here is that not all app developers have the resources to add support for the blind, saddling all developers with this sort of requirement would really cool development of apps for iOS.

What is worst here is that some apps would never have a rational purpose for the blind. Does Angery Birds need need to support the blind? I just see this as foolish as not every app has a rational use case for the blind so why place universal requirements on all apps ?

As some one else mentioned go after the app developer.
post #12 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


I suppose if a business/service already had a web site that was compliant, they'd have no real excuse for not doing the same with their app, but I believe compliance is still 100% voluntary.

Perhaps we can get some blind or disabled folks or maybe a lawyer to weigh in with their opinions here?

I actually am borderline legally blind. Apple's products have made the world much more easy to access for me. it is one of many reasons why I'm a loyal Apple customer. 

 

But I don't know the ins and outs of the law well enough to understand how NFB has a basis for a lawsuit here. 

 

Also, on the face of it, it seems unfair to target Apple rather than other firms that have done far less than Apple for accessibility. 

 

edit --

 

another thought that just occurred to me is that accessibility is a pretty big deal in public education, which is a key market for apple. I would think that the NFB would have better luck appealing to Apple's desire to continue dominating that market, and instead of threatening the stick of a lawsuit, offer a carrot of providing some kind of strong endorsement of Apple products in education if Apple does x, y, and z. 

post #13 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post

I actually am borderline legally blind. Apple's products have made the world much more easy to access for me. it is one of many reasons why I'm a loyal Apple customer. 

But I don't know the ins and outs of the law well enough to understand how NFB has a basis for a lawsuit here. 

Also, on the face of it, it seems unfair to target Apple rather than other firms that have done far less than Apple for accessibility. 

edit --

another thought that just occurred to me is that accessibility is a pretty big deal in public education, which is a key market for apple. I would think that the NFB would have better luck appealing to Apple's desire to continue dominating that market, and instead of threatening the stick of a lawsuit, offer a carrot of providing some kind of strong endorsement of Apple products in education if Apple does x, y, and z. 

Interesting. I hadn't considered the education angle.

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post #14 of 91
There are none so blind as those who will not see. In this case, the NFB.
I don't care about what the ignorant masses perceive as truth. I'm concerned with the facts on the ground.
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post #15 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by tonton View Post
 

What I'd love to see for deaf people, and everyone else (sighted) for that matter, is a voice-to-text function that can turn voice messages into readable text. Apple already has the technology for this through Siri and dictation software. All they have to do is make it work with voice messages.

I think the visual voicemail is something that can only go on at the carrier end. Not sure if Apple can do anything about that currently.

post #16 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post

What law has apple violated here? Why not sue the app maker? Why not sue google?

I'm all for greater accessibility, but I don't quite understand this story...

They have not broken any laws, this group is using a very broad definition of the ADA (American's with Disability Act) which is for things like all public places mush have a wheel chair ramp or handicap accessible toilet. This group does what is known as a drive by lawsuit. These group get funds by suing anyone they can by claiming they violated the ADA. Usually have to prove a person who is protected by the ADA was not accommodated by the company to win. Most time these types of groups go after small businesses by driving by and noticing that may not have one of the accommodation and sue them since it hard to prove that the ADA protect person was not discriminated against and it is too costly to fight an ADA case.

 

In the case of Apple they are not claiming Apple did anything wrong but the developers who make the apps, they are forcing apple to put in policies which would require any app being sold in the app store to provide accessibility features. Again it would be hard for them to go after each and every developer since they would have to prove how the developer discriminated against an ADA person. In spite of what they said they want to work with Apple, it will end in a lawsuit which they will get money from.

 

Imagine this group going after Walmart and saying that are require to ensure that every produce placed on their shelves accommodated an ADA person. It is not Walmart's responsibility, nor is it Apple Responsibility to make sure app developers provide solutions for ADA protecting individuals.

 

When the ADA was passed it was for people in wheel chairs and blind people, today this include drug addicts and Alcoholics and a whole list of various issues like depression. You can image the things a developer maybe force to do to accommodate all these special people.


Edited by Maestro64 - 7/9/14 at 7:32am
post #17 of 91

Apple needs to update their developer UI guidelines for accessibility of the disabled. Not every company especially indie ones can hire experts in this area.

post #18 of 91

US is becoming crazy nation.  How much can a blind person use a smartphone?  How much can external organization dictate a company to design its product?  If iPhone is a monopoly, this may make some sense.  But but Google Android is dominating Apple iOS.  Isn't this a fact by all kinds of media reports? 

post #19 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by tzeshan View Post
 

US is becoming crazy nation.  How much can a blind person use a smartphone?  How much can external organization dictate a company to design its product?  If iPhone is a monopoly, this may make some sense.  But but Google Android is dominating Apple iOS.  Isn't this a fact by all kinds of media reports? 

 

Obvious comment by someone who does not have family members or friends who are disabled... Blind people can and want to use smartphones but the problem is that the current UI is not accessible to them. It's a chicken and egg problem.

post #20 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by RalphMouth View Post
 

 

Obvious comment by someone who does not have family members or friends who are disabled... Blind people can and want to use smartphones but the problem is that the current UI is not accessible to them. It's a chicken and egg problem.

OK I find a person that is willing to discuss the details.  Please tell us how much a blind person can use a smartphone.  Can he use FB app?  Can he use weather app? 

post #21 of 91
Did the NFB pass a resolution prompting Google to comply? After all Android is "winning." Apple has done more for accessibility than other phone software/hardware companies.
post #22 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by tzeshan View Post

Please tell us how much a blind person can use a smartphone.

With VoiceOver enabled it can be used quite a bit.
Quote:
Can he use FB app?

Yes and no. Everything seems to work well with VoiceOver enabled but the app is so cluttered that it's a not a great experience.
Quote:
Can he use weather app?

Yes, if you're talking about the built-in one.

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post #23 of 91
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Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post

What law has apple violated here? Why not sue the app maker? Why not sue google?

I'm all for greater accessibility, but I don't quite understand this story...

The law in question is ADA Section 508

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post #24 of 91
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Originally Posted by mstone View Post

The law in question is ADA Section 508

I think Section 508 applied to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. I also think it's for federal agencies, not for private companies or app makers.

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post #25 of 91
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Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

I think Section 508 applied to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. I also think it's for federal agencies, not for private companies or app makers.

It is for any organization that sells to the federal government or receives federal funding. So if a company sells any software or equipment to the government, then technically all their software and web sites must conform. We went through this with our company as we sell equipment to the government and the user manuals, product information, training videos, etc are on the support web site. Kind of useless in our case as we sell radiology equipment and you cannot use it if you are blind, but I suppose it is possible a doctor might have a blind office manager. Really a lot of work to comply especially with the videos.

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post #26 of 91
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Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


With VoiceOver enabled it can be used quite a bit.
Yes and no. Everything seems to work well with VoiceOver enabled but the app is so cluttered that it's a not a great experience.
Yes, if you're talking about the built-in one.


But but the blind person must first know where to touch, right?  For a smartphone the whole screen is touch sensitive.  One can accidentally touch an area causing unwanted response. 

post #27 of 91

I think what is really needed are apps designed specifically for disabled person.  To require every approved app to be easily accessible to disabled person is technologically backward.  In reality it limits the functionality of apps. 

post #28 of 91
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Originally Posted by tzeshan View Post
 
But but the blind person must first know where to touch, right?  For a smartphone the whole screen is touch sensitive.  One can accidentally touch an area causing unwanted response. 

When in voiceover mode, you touch once to get the name of the button, then again to activate the button. The blind person touches around on the screen to discover where the buttons are, but they don't activate until touched for the second time within a short delay.

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post #29 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by tzeshan View Post
 

I think what is really needed are apps designed specifically for disabled person.  To require every approved app to be easily accessible to disabled person is technologically backward.  In reality it limits the functionality of apps. 

You really should do some homework on this subject before offering your opinions.

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post #30 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post
 

When in voiceover mode, you touch once to get the name of the button, then again to activate the button. The blind person touches around on the screen to discover where the buttons are, but they don't activate until touched for the second time within a short delay.


Is voiceover enabled by the app? 

post #31 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by tzeshan View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post
 

When in voiceover mode, you touch once to get the name of the button, then again to activate the button. The blind person touches around on the screen to discover where the buttons are, but they don't activate until touched for the second time within a short delay.


Is voiceover enabled by the app? 

By the OS but it is inherited by the app. The developer should name the buttons in their code in order for the VO to read them aloud. 

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post #32 of 91
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Originally Posted by mstone View Post
 

By the OS but it is inherited by the app. The developer should name the buttons in their code in order for the VO to read them aloud. 


Why can't the OS force every button to work? 

post #33 of 91
I wonder how much an iOS developer needs to add to make an app compatible for the blind? From what I've seen it seem baked into the system. It's supporting other languages that seems to be a little more work for developers.
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

It is for any organization that sells to the federal government or receives federal funding. So if a company sells any software or equipment to the government, then technically all their software and web sites must conform. We went through this with our company as we sell equipment to the government and the user manuals, product information, training videos, etc are on the support web site. Kind of useless in our case as we sell radiology equipment and you cannot use it if you are blind, but I suppose it is possible a doctor might have a blind office manager. Really a lot of work to comply especially with the videos.

I was under the impression the flow was different. If the Feds want to buy your product it has to be compliant but you don't have to make it compliant just because they want to buy it.

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post #34 of 91

I think another solution is for Apple to certify apps that are disabled person friendly.  The developer can submit the request that the app is. 

post #35 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

I was under the impression the flow was different. If the Feds want to buy your product it has to be compliant but you don't have to make it compliant just because they have bought it.

In order to sell to the government you have to be an approved vendor, hence you must comply in order to sell to them. It really depends on what your law firm tells you to do based on the terms they are negotiating with the federal purchasing manager. It is not always enforced, but smaller organizations like state or community colleges that receive federal funding are more strict as they don't want to be out of compliance since they are dependent on the funding.

 

Quote:
I wonder how much an iOS developer needs to add to make an app compatible for the blind? From what I've seen it seem baked into the system. It's supporting other languages that seems to be a little more work for developers.
 

It is mostly about naming the buttons. Same for the website. And don't use hover as a navigation method even though it might work, you can't depend on it.


Edited by mstone - 7/9/14 at 9:07am

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post #36 of 91
I my self am blind. What NFB is doing is crazy! Apple has done some much for the blind and if you wants Apps accessible why not go directly to the devs? This is not the rite way to do this. Also, This is a broad resolution. What about games? It would all most impossible to do this for visual Apps.
post #37 of 91

This is over the top. If an organization wants to request that something be made more accessible (cell phones are very accessible for their standard functions, i.e. phone calls) than they request it be so. Using the ADA to batter companies (seemingly only high profile ones that have the pockets to respond) is inappropriate, not every product in the country has to be made accessible, or have to fit a certain percentage of the populations definition of accessible.  If you want an vehicle that is "accessible" for someone who is disabled the financial burden for the majority fall on the disabled person, if they want a super accessible phone, they need to fork over the bucks. 

post #38 of 91
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Originally Posted by tookieman2013 View Post

...for someone who is disabled the financial burden for the majority fall on the disabled person...

Since they are already disabled doesn't that make it considerably more difficult which is why we have these laws?

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post #39 of 91
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Originally Posted by tookieman2013 View Post
 

This is over the top. If an organization wants to request that something be made more accessible (cell phones are very accessible for their standard functions, i.e. phone calls) than they request it be so. Using the ADA to batter companies (seemingly only high profile ones that have the pockets to respond) is inappropriate, not every product in the country has to be made accessible, or have to fit a certain percentage of the populations definition of accessible.  If you want an vehicle that is "accessible" for someone who is disabled the financial burden for the majority fall on the disabled person, if they want a super accessible phone, they need to fork over the bucks. 

For the most part it is pretty easy for app developers to comply. It is just writing clean code. Instead of only providing an icon for a button, they simply give it a label in the code as well. 10 extra seconds. It is a no brainer once you have been made aware. The main issue is that there are no trial apps available so a blind person would have to contact each app developer and ask if the app was compliant or not before making a purchase.

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post #40 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post
 

For the most part it is pretty easy for app developers to comply. It is just writing clean code. Instead of only providing an icon for a button, they simply give it a label in the code as well. 10 extra seconds. It is a no brainer once you have been made aware. The main issue is that there are no trial apps available so a blind person would have to contact each app developer and ask if the app was compliant or not before making a purchase.


This is the solution I suggested that Apple certify apps to be disabled person friendly instead of requiring every app to be so.  This is backward to ask over one million apps to be so.

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