The National Federation of the Blind sued Apple in 2008 for not making iTunes more accessible to the seeing impaired.
Now, the Federation is putting the pressure on Apple again to make smartphones and new Apple technology more accessible, according to a recent Reuters report.
Android is in the same hot seat, but advocates put most of the blame on Apple, since the company created the modern smartphone – and Apple has been a long-time supporter of the blind.
Both Apple and Google have sent developers guidelines on how apps should be made for either platform, but these guidelines don’t include making apps accessible for the disabled. Further, advocate groups would like each app to include an accessibility rating, so that users can easily determine which apps to download.
LinkedIn has already started making some changes to the company’s app by hiring Jennison Asuncion in the newly formed role of “accessibility chief.” Jennison is legally blind, and he hopes that his role with the social media company will help to benefit disabled people that want to use LinkedIn. As it stands, the LinkedIn apps are not easily accessible, and this is a major problem.
Bobbing for Apples
At a meeting last week, the National Federation of the Blind held a meeting that resulted in the group putting added pressure on Apple to enforce developer accessibility guidelines. Group spokesperson, Michael Hingson, told press that the Federation is ready to make the next step (litigation) if Apple does not move swiftly to make necessary accessibility changes.
Apple and Google are both trying to make apps more accessible, and both companies are detailing accessibility needs to developers, but the problem is largely that it’s hard to change the face of certain apps that have already been developed. It is possible to add some quick fixes, but those revamped apps are likely to be sub-par. Apple hasn’t commented on this story yet, but the company has voiced these concerns to developers.
Apple’s new iOS 8 will come with “speak screen,” which reads anything that’s on the screen from messages to available apps. The new iOS will also have improved zoom capabilities, and it will have support for the hearing impaired as well. Clearly, Apple is making adjustments, but will this be enough? Further, does Apple have time to make the needed changes to developer guidelines before the Federation sues the company once again? Or, will Apple make the changes?
Companies like Apple and Google depend on developers to create interesting apps. If app guidelines are too difficult or simply not worth it (as is the case with BlackBerry), developers will go elsewhere, and this could be one reason why Apple is gun-shy. Then again, it’s hard to imagine that developers would not comply with these accessibility requirements given the fact that Apple apps can easily become popular.
My guess is that Apple will comply with the Federation’s requests, but the company does need the time to adjust. In the meantime, some companies may want to take a cue from LinkedIn by making necessary changes ahead of any decree from Apple.