Apple should do more for blind app users, says advocacy group

VoiceOver

UPDATE: Reuters didn’t use Tim Cook’s complete remarks, we’ve posted them here.

Apple should do more to improve accessibility for its apps, says an advocacy group, supported by members of the National Federation of the Blind.

“It’s time for Apple to step up or we will take the next step,” NFB of California board member Michael Hingson told Reuters. The advocacy group successfully sued Apple regarding iTunes back in 2008, with Apple paying out $250,000 and giving the service an accessibility-minded makeover as part of the settlement. While it may not reach the level of a repeat lawsuit, Hingson says that this could be “the only resort” to force Apple’s hand.

Apple has worked to improve accessibility for blind and deaf users over the past few years, with features like VoiceOver and a recent patent for a new graphical interface designed for the visually impaired.

However, blind advocates notes that apps from companies including Bank of America, Southwest Airlines, and Netflix lack basic accessibility features like button labels which can be read aloud by VoiceOver. The result are apps which prove difficult to navigate.

“I get nervous every time I hit the update button,” one user is quoted as saying.

According to research firm Fifth Quadrant Analytics, there is a worldwide market of 1.1 billion people with disabilities — with close to 21 million U.S. adults experiencing vision loss, and approximately 28 million have a hearing impairment.

In a 2013 speech at Auburn University, Tim Cook described how people with disabilities live “in a struggle to have their human dignity acknowledged.”

“They’re frequently left in the shadows of technological advancements that are a source of empowerment and attainment for others,” he said.

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About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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