Join us in Marking Global Accessibility Awareness Day by Reaching Out to iOS and OS X Developers

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), and to mark this we are urging everybody to use it as an opportunity to reach out to iOS and OS X developers - to either encourage them to make their applications accessible and usable by the vision-impaired; or to show your appreciation for applications which already are.

GAAD was created as a mechanism to reach out to the people who “build, shape, fund and influence technology and its use”; raising awareness of both how and why they should be striving to ensure that technology is accessible to all its potential users. To learn more about GAAD, read the blog post by Joe Devon that inspired it.

To mark GAAD last year, Ilkka Pirttimaa, developer of BlindSquare GPS, posted an article in which he stated that making your apps accessible is “just the right thing to do”. Elsewhere, AssistiveWare wrote about Global Accessibility Awareness Day and Why it Matters.

Posts such as these, along with similar articles that we are sure to see today, serve as a useful reminder that the accessibility problems we see in iOS and OS X applications won’t fix themselves. We need to be reaching out to developers to file accessibility bug reports, politely letting them know how these bugs negatively impact upon our use of their applications and giving them the information that will help to ensure that their applications can be made fully accessible to the vision-impaired.

Many developers are simply unaware of what needs to be done and where they can go to learn how to make their applications accessible and inclusive to all users. So, when reaching out, we cannot emphasise strongly enough the need to provide as much information as possible. The developer needs to be able to replicate the problem for themselves and know what needs to be done to resolve that problem. In his post about why accessibility isn't just another feature, Michael Hansen offers the following tips for reporting accessibility issues to developers:

  • Explain what VoiceOver is, and how it provides you access to your iOS device or Mac computer.
  • Explain, in as much detail as you are able, the issues you're experiencing with the app. Articulating accessibility issues can be difficult--particularly if you don't know what the problem is--but the more information you can provide a developer, the more likely it is that they'll be able to identify and fix the issue. If you feel so inclined, consider recording and including an audio demonstration of the problem.
  • Tell the developer that while people who don't use VoiceOver might consider accessibility support something "nice to have," to you VoiceOver support means the difference between whether you can use an app or not. At its core, supporting VoiceOver means the difference between whether you have equal access to an app/service or not.
  • Consider including links to resources for more information about what VoiceOver is and how to implement support on the developer end. Apple's guides, "Understanding Accessibility on iOS" and “Accessibility on OS X”, are great places to start.
  • Regardless of what you say in your e-mail, it's absolutely essential that you be polite. Developers are people too, and it is very likely that taking an aggressive/insulting approach will only result in your e-mail being ignored. Don't be afraid to call accessibility failures what they are ("VoiceOver does not see any elements on the screen; this means that I am absolutely unable to use your app at all, and thus I do not have the same equal access that sighted users enjoy"), but stay away from character attacks and other derogatory comments. The Golden Rule--"treat others as you would want to be treated"--applies here.

If you are an app developer interested in making your app accessible, we have a page here on AppleVis which provides links to many resources that developers may find helpful. These include a comprehensive AppleVis Guide for app developers and educators on Teaching and Testing iOS App VoiceOver Accessibility.

Of course, there are already many great and accessible applications which are used daily, and in many cases relied upon, by blind and low vision users. So, today also seems like a great opportunity to be sharing our appreciation with their developers.

We regularly hear from developers who take a great deal of inspiration and reward from hearing positive feedback on how their applications are being used by the vision-impaired. An article on Touch Arcade about blind gaming offers several examples. So, do please take a moment today to show your appreciation to the developers of applications that you enjoy and rely on. A short email or mention on Twitter will go a long way to justify and acknowledge their time and commitment. If posting to Twitter, please be sure to include the hashtag #GAAD.

In addition, many Apple Stores are marking Global Accessibility Awareness Day with accessibility-focused workshops. So, be sure to check to see what your local Apple Store has scheduled.

What developers do you feel have gone above and beyond to make accessibility a priority? What are you doing to mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day? Let us know in the comments below!