Remember my blog posts about the issues surrounding the accessibility of American Heritage English Dictionary? It all started almost four years ago when exciting efforts to make it accessible commenced. Then the efforts came to fruition and this worthwhile application became accessible.
However, almost three months ago Houghton Mifflin Harcourt switched to a new developer, MobiSystems, and American Heritage Dictionary became inaccessible, undoing all previous efforts. Houghton Mifflin had their legitimate reasons for the switch, and many of us here rightfully objected to MobiSystems' lackluster interest in redeeming the app's accessibility. Fortunately as people kept contacting Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and MobiSystems with their accessibility concerns, MobiSystems promised to add VoiceOver integration to American Heritage Dictionary in September or October. That time has come.
The issue was that VoiceOver couldn't detect or see the Definition text area of the app, and, with the most recent release of the app, MobiSystems has made the Definition control visible to VoiceOver. However -- and unlike what the previously accessible releases of the app, since all definitions appear in a single text control, we can no longer move among definitions, definition senses, etymologies, synonym notes, usage notes, and so on via left/right clicks. That is, once you land on the Definition area, you should listen to the definitions at once without having the chance to stop speech, move to the next/previous definition/example, etc. This seriously impairs the usability of a dictionary application, in a way that I don't recommend purchasing it unless you're willing to cope with this limitation. If interested, I suggest that you download and try the free app yourself -- without the need to pay for its offline or audio Premium features.
I've also sent an email to Toby Leith, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Licensing Manager, and to MobiSystem's, the developer of the app. I suggest that you also contact them to voice your concerns, using the following addresses:
My email reads as follows:
... First and foremost, I must thank the MobiSystems developers for their genuine efforts to make this important application accessible.
However, currently the way accessibility has been implemented is problematic in a way that the use of VoiceOver to read the definitions is quite cumbersome. The problem is that, with MobiSystems implementation, VoiceOver treats the Definition area or text box as one simple control. This means that if the Definition area gains focus, VoiceOver reads the visible part of it automatically. If you flick left/right with VoiceOver active, you'll leave the Definition area.
As such, since this is just a single control, users can't navigate the text on a definition by definition or sense by sense basis with flicking left and right. This poses a serious challenge for words which have a good number of definitions, definition senses, synonym notes, pronunciation clarifications, usage notes, etc. Try looking up the word word "take" for an example. You must listen to and comprehend everything in the Definition area with no chance of repeating/navigating to certain definitions or senses.
It's worth mentioning that the previous releases of AHD 5 -- developed by another company -- offered this enhanced level of accessibility in a way that VoiceOver users could easily navigate to various definitions or senses, pause on a definition, have VoiceOver repeat it, etc. All of the above can't be done at the moment.
As a consequence, I humbly request that MobiSystems kindly re-consider their approach to VoiceOver support in AHD 5. As things stand right now, I still
cannot recommend the app to VoiceOver users and might even ask them via access-oriented websites and blogs to forgo purchasing it until definition/sense/text
navigation via left/right flicks is implemented. ...
That's all about it. If you need this awesome dictionary, if you've been using it in the past, or if you simply want to be a champion of accessibility, contact both companies using the email addresses I provided above. Since the previously accessible app no longer works with iOS 10 and owing to the fact that it's no longer being maintained, enhancing the dictionary's accessibility is of utmost importance. Hope to see that day soon.