Last week there was a big furore when it turned out that a Reuters report about the National Federation of the Blind taking issue with the accessibility of Apple’s apps was based on inaccurate reporting.
Given how seriously Apple takes the issue of accessibility (as seen by Tim Cook’s comments at Auburn University last year, and his angry retort to investors worried about ROI earlier this year) it didn’t take long for Cupertino to spring into action: pointing out just how seriously they take the concept that their products should be used and enjoyed by everyone, including those with disabilities.
Now Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, has chimed into the debate himself, with a lengthy blog post praising Apple’s work on accessibility, but also pointing out what can be done to improve this even more in future — by having Apple work with app developers to make the 1 million+ apps in the App Store more accessible to all users.
“Apple has done more for accessibility than any other company to date, and we have duly recognized this by presenting the company with at least two awards (including our annual Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award) and publicly praising it whenever the opportunity arises,” Riccobono writes. “We do not want to needlessly antagonize a company that has been such an outstanding accessibility champion. Nevertheless, inaccessible apps continue to proliferate, and blind users cannot update the apps on their iPhones without anxiety.”
Later he notes that he has recently spent time at Apple’s headquarters, and hopes to continue working closely with the company to improve Apple usability for blind users.
“People have asserted that we have thrown Apple under the bus, and are making demands and threats, including the threat of litigation,” Riccobono writes, later noting that:
“We are not issuing an ultimatum or a threat. We are not demanding anything. We are certainly not condemning Apple; there is much praise for the company in the many ‘whereas’ clauses that precede the ‘resolved’ clause. We have a good relationship with Apple, and it is our desire for that relationship to continue.”
Hopefully Apple and the National Federation of the Blind can work together on this issue. Apple has done a lot to aid the usability of its tools in recent years, and this will likely continue in future. (Particularly if the rumoured advanced haptic technology for future iOS devices ever materialises, since this would be transformative for blind users.)