Submitted by: Empish J. Thomas, CVI’s Public Education Manager
Recently I listened to a webinar hosted by the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired titled “AppleVis and Advocating for Accessible Apps.” The focus was to equip those who have vision loss with the tools to be able to advocate for accessible apps on their iPhones. As a fairly new iPhone user, just started last year, I have not come across too many inaccessible apps but I found the webinar very informative, educational and wanted to share some of the highlights.
We all know that the perfect and ideal world would be that all things would automatically be accessible; but of course that is not the world that we all live in. So, dealing with inaccessibility can be a big part of being blind and visually impaired. Also, accessibility means different things to different people. For example, a screen reader, braille or low vision user could all access an app very differently. Also, an app could be accessible to a braille user but not to a low vision user. So, you have to keep all these things in mind when advocating for an accessible app. Here are some steps that were shared.
- When you discover that an app is not accessible reach out to the company. Sharing your frustrations with friends and family is not going to go very far. Contact the company that created the app and let them know about your concerns. You want them to work with you to resolve the problem.
- You can contact the app developer through the App Store, e-mail address, social media, AppleVis, Internet search, or etc. Once you find their contact info be diplomatic, making them aware and keeping the communication brief and non-confrontational. Let them know that you are blind and what technology you are using, i.e. Voiceover, braille or low vision enhancements.
- Then explain the problems and how it works with your technology. Many developers may not be aware that a person that is blind or visually impaired is using their app; or how technology for the blind works.
- Next, provide places they can go to get more info to fix the problem such as the AppleVis website or others that you might have found. When I have worked with inaccessible websites and contacted the company I have them talk to Freedom Scientific, who makes my screen reader, as a resource for additional assistance.
- Once you send your correspondence to the developer bear in mind that you might not get a reply back or a reply that you want. Don’t assume that if there is no reply that your concern or suggestion was not heard. This scenario happen to me when I sent an e-mail to Pixar Films when they launched the Disney Movies Anywhere App. I had downloaded it on my phone but noticed some challenges with using it. I sent an e-mail to the developer, who requested feedback, but never heard anything. Then several months passed and when I checked the app again, those changes had been implemented. Additionally, don’t assume that if the reply is not positive that what you had to share was not important. Many times when developing apps accessibility might not be on the top of the list of priorities; but that does not mean that what you are saying is not important. You can share with the developer that there are others beside yourself that are having the same challenges by encouraging others to reach out as well. This will show the developer that “you are not the only one” that is having difficulty using the app.
- As you share constructive criticism with the developer, a relationship may blossom. This can lead to future accessible updates and enhancements that you need. Or in a similar situation, I have worked with website developers of Publix Grocery Store and then when they launched their app they reached out to me for feedback. They wanted to be sure that the app was accessible too.
These are just some of the steps that were shared in the webinar. But to hear the full episode log on to the Hadley website or you can listen as a podcast on your smartphone.