Dear community, lend me your words..

Accessibility Advocacy
Hello all!

Scott Thompson here. It is a pleasure to be re-engaged with the Apple Accessibility community. Some of you might know me and have spoken with me during my time at Apple. I was with Apple until October of 2018, spending the majority of my seven years at Apple with the Accessibility Department.

I currently work at Applitools. Applitools is a user-interface monitoring platform that utilizes AI for app and web developers, and testers, to eliminate those dreadful bugs that often plague all of us, especially Accessibility. A part of our primary tool, Eyes, does Accessibility testing (image tags, descriptions, pixel-shifts, etc.) and we intend to increase its' functionality in the future (contrast ratios, etc.)

I would love to have an automated testing tool for VO. No one is there yet, but I'm pushing for it. Our product is called Applitools Eyes, and I think Applitools Ears would be quite complimentary.

I'm here today because of our articles and research on Accessibility. We have a webinar from 2017 (Click here to read and hear it.) that goes in-depth about testing, but I think it's time to refresh our information.

Like others have asked previously on the forums, I'd like to hear what you, the users, have to say about the current state of testing. I want to listen to your raw feelings about the service, disservice of apps, and websites today. Who is doing it well, who's not? Bugs, frustrations, what makes or breaks the experience for you?

As a strong advocate, I'd like to hear your honest opinions. It can be as broad or as specific as you would like. I'll make sure to credit you in the article if I use your comment.

We focus on "visual testing," but we all know that accessible code will resolve a lot of visual bugs as well. I encourage developers to write code with Accessibility in mind first, as it often solves many other problems they may have in the rest of their app. I've seen that mentality being adopted in the developer space, albeit slowly. It takes a lot of time to do well. But we are all called upon to also do what is right. It has been much more difficult in the enterprise space, but luckily, the Domino's lawsuit is scaring a lot of companies into action.

Also, feel free to add me on LinkedIn. I would love to increase my Accessibility network. Plus, I have connections to several people at Apple that I might be able to lend your voice and comments to by proxy. Click here to go to my LinkedIn profile.

Thank you all for your time, comments, and drive to advocate for an accessible world.



Submitted by Brandon X on Wednesday, September 4, 2019

I believe that companies That Develop application do not think about accessibility. For example, I contacted monster and Phonak. I tried some of their application that I wanted to use. I believe the developers didn’t know about accessibility testing. I tried explaining to monster which is a company that develops speakers and headphones about their application monster zone. I wanted to change the lights on one of their speakers and realized I couldn’t do it because the application wasn’t as accessible. I sent multiple emails for them to attempt the application with voiceover but never got a response. The twist is I did the same thing with Bose another company that develops speaker and headphones. I contacted them about their Bose connect app about their accessibility. Within weeks they updated the accessibility and it fully word with voiceover. I wish that more companies would use accessibility Settings to experience what we go through by turning on accessibility settings like voiceover to see how visually impaired users Navigate the application and develop a way to fix the issue Or find a way to run accessibility testing. I believe that accessibility testing is important because there are different users in the whole world that can’t see or hear that cannot use an app that might help them one day. I am a user that studies assistant technology and test application on a day-to-day basis by myself. I wished I had the tools to be able to run accessibility testing on applications and wish to find solutions one day to fix them all. to Scott: I am currently on the pathway of becoming a assistive technology instructor. I wish to have an opportunity to have a interview With you so that I can talk With you about your job for a Career experience purposes.

Submitted by Dawn 👩🏻‍🦯 on Wednesday, September 4, 2019

I'm watching the Domino's case very closely.
I hope the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, the blind man who couldn't use the site because of accessibility.
I think lawsuits have their place, but I don't think they should be abused either.
Where I see most issues with accessibility is government sites. And according to Us. law in the Ada. any site with a .gov domain must be accessible! And 99% of the time it's not the case. I hope that the supreme court makes the right decision.
I also think it'd be nice to see a accessibility rating system on the app store. Especially with paid apps.
In 2010, the Department of justice had guidelines for web site accessibility. But they were withdrawn in 2016 or 2017 I can't remember which year. And that was a big mistake. Put the guidelines back in place & resume any planning/drafting/ whatever phase they were in when they were pulled.

Submitted by Blade Runner on Thursday, September 5, 2019

In reply to by Dawn 👩🏻‍🦯

I am assuming that your are talking about the Domino's pizza sight.
Strange, I've used the Domino's sight for on-line ordering for years and have had no problems.

Submitted by ming on Thursday, September 5, 2019

hey! I hope that this service can help developers to make their games more accessible.
like we have lots of great games but, most of them is not accessible for us to play.
and I hope this kinds of tools can help developers to make their games accessible....

Submitted by Angel on Thursday, September 5, 2019

Hi I am a Harry Potter fan and unfortunately Harry Potter Hogwarts mystery adventure is not accessible. I contacted the developers but no response. I feel like the game developers should make their games accessible so that way no one feels left out.Ading to that I hope that the supreme court tells dominoes to make their website and app accessible.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Thursday, September 5, 2019

I'm not a big pokimon fan, but it would be nice of pokimon go were accessible. there was a petition out a while ago, but it never got any traction, or if it did, Nintendo didn't care. This is just sad in my humble opinion.

Also the harry potter wizards game is not accessible so I heard. I guess you all who contacted that company got no response either?

Submitted by Ekaj on Thursday, September 5, 2019

Hi Scott and welcome to AppleVis. It's great that you're here. I cut my teeth with Apple back in the days of the AppleII computers and Textalker. For those too young to remember Textalker, it was a little command-line program that made these computers talk. Perhaps the term "screen reader" wasn't a thing back then, because I never heard Textalker referred to as such. But it was a fun program. I then abandoned ship if you will, and used DOS and its eventual successor Windows. But then at the end of 2013 I came back to the wonderful world of Apple, when my parents purchased me a MacBook Air for Christmas that year. Ironically enough perhaps, the MacBook Air that I tried out at the store is the same exact one on which I'm typing this. At first I was not too crazy about the Mac and VoiceOver, but now I'm hooked. I got my first accessible smartphone last year, in the form of an iPhone Seven. I think Apple have done an excellent job with accessibility, and I'm told it's getting even better. I have yet to use an inaccessible app either from a 3rd-party developer or from Apple themselves. I was discussing my iPhone with my brother and a colleague of his in a FaceTime chat during the winter holidays last year, and we were sort of wondering when I'd run into an inaccessible app. Both of them are visually impaired. Perhaps some day that'll happen, lol. Are there bugs? Sure there are but none of them are or were show-stoppers for me, with the exception of one but that has been resolved. I'm speaking about the constant speech crashes on the Mac. I think the thing to consider here is that not all of us experience the same bugs, or any at all for that matter. But having said that, I'm a firm believer in universal access. I think we should continue to educate these fledgling developers and tech giants alike about accessibility, and ensure that it is baked in at the start rather than tagged on at the final stages. After all, disability can strike at anytime, to anybody. At least this is what I've been told.

Submitted by Peter Saathoff on Thursday, September 5, 2019

My perspective, being involved in the software development world, is that the vast majority of software engineers and other related people aren’t aware of accessibility. That’s the biggest issue. Then, when some of them learn about it, many of them disregard it or decide it’s not important enough.
I believe the best thing we can do as screen reader users and other assistive technology users, is to report as many bugs as possible. Don’t be quiet. Keep making a fuss about everything you can. Try not to be angry or confrontational about it even if you are angry, because that immediately turns people away. But describing the issue in a clear, descriptive, step-by-step way I think helps developers understand what’s going on.
Also, would love to connect on LinkedIn but the link doesn’t work when I activate it...

Submitted by Lulu Hartgen on Thursday, September 5, 2019

Hi. A lot of my thoughts have been covered here already, I have just one thing to add. Yes it's important that we make developers, big and small, aware of accessibility. It's really frustrating when you send a polite, detailed email or several, and get no response, not even an acknowledgement. But by the same token there are developers who are trying their hardest to work accessibility in from the get go and it's important they get feedback too. If we thank devs who go the extra mile for us, give them constructive feedback and show our appreciation when things are good, it helps. If we give in to feelings of frustration, send unpleasant emails, give something a one star rating because the accessibility that's being worked on isn't ready yet, where's it going to get us? I know of at least one developer who is now having to fight to keep accessibility in their games because of our dealings with them, when they've done everything they can to help us. I strongly believe in accessibility for all, but I also believe that sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

Submitted by Tommaso Nonis on Thursday, September 5, 2019

Hello Scott,
I take the opportunity of my first ever post to say it's an onor that a former accessibility person at Apple decides to engage with the community.

Let me put in my two cents: personally, I believe the biggest problem with Apple's accessibility, particularly VO on mac, is just that, VO itself.
I am Italian, and the braille implementation is, to say the least, poor: all the control types are represented in Braille by their full names (e.g. button, tool bar button), instead of abbreviations. This wastes enormous amounts of space on the braille display, causing unnecessary panning all over the place.
Then, even after 11 years of VO usage (I started in 2008), I believe the way of browsing the web is certainly doable, but when it comes to selecting text, copying and pasting text around, the approach Apple follows just cannot compare to the virtual buffer, document style navigation of products such as JAWS or NVDA.

And, last, the inability to customise VO, apart from some simple applescripts: you cannot make VO react to system or application events of your choosing, you are basically stuck with whatever Apple or the app developer decides to offer you.

On a last note, sorry guys for any grammar mistakes. I am not bad at English, but it is still not my native language :P

Submitted by Ann Marie B on Friday, September 6, 2019

Hello Scott,
First off I want to say thank you for taking the time to do this article regarding apple accessibility for the blind or visually impaired. I am an avid iPhone and VO user and have been since 2013. One aspect of accessibility that perturbs me is developers and alt text. I use Facebook and I know they are trying surely but slowly to implement image descriptions. Some images and/or backgrounds are described by VO and others are not. On Facebook VO will state "image may contain text" without reading text and other instances it will state "image may contain text that says...". As a visually impaired person who relies totally on VO, I feel this needs to be improved upon. I also agree that developers need to test accessibility features with VO. Again thank you for your time.

Submitted by Kelly Pierce on Friday, September 6, 2019


It is great to meet you and thanks for introducing yourself. I became an accessibility advocate because so much technology was inaccessible and the big technology companies touted their social responsibility but refused to do anything to make their products accessible. I am pleased on how much has changed. I live in Chicago and one of my advocacy projects was to have the city adopt Section 508 standards in buying technology and contracting technology related services. The city eventually adopted the standards. After this, the city, like other large employers, required all job applicants to apply online for city jobs. The only problem was that the company that designed the Web employment interface designed it in a way that was not compatible with screen reader users. Thanks to the contract provision, the company redeveloped the interface so it met W3C guidelines at its own expense. A similar situation happened at the library. It spent eight million dollars completely revamping its website and found a new vendor for its catalog. I tried it shortly after it went live to the public. The edit field to search the catalog could not be accessed by JAWS for Windows, VoiceOver on the iPhone or for sighted users of Safari on the iPhone. The library was extremely responsive and asked the vendor to correct the problem, under the terms of its contract with the 508 standards. The company corrected the problem and in a few weeks I was told the problem had been resolved and indeed it was. Several months later, I discovered the same problem had returned again and I and other blind users could not search the catalog. The library contacted the vendor and again demanded it produce and maintain Web-based services that met 508 standards. It turned out in the intervening time the catalog interface needed to be restored from a backup. A backup was not created when the interface was altered from the original design to meet 508 standards. The inaccessible interface was installed and the programmer who created the accessibility upgrade had left the company, all of this unknown to company leadership at the time. I learned about this because it took longer than the first time for the accessibility to be restored. It eventually was. Shortly after the incident, the company advertised widely for a Web designer or programmer with demonstrated Web accessibility knowledge and expertise.

Even when government is committed to accessibility and does everything possible to create it, government must rely on third party vendors who want the contract, promise the world and often do not have the human capital to create accessible technology.

The disability community scored a victory in the Domino’s Pizza case. It is highly likely the ninth circuit would affirm the lower court decision, which is why Dominos went directly to the Supreme Court. It is extremely rare for the SC to review a case before an appeals court decides the matter. I would not be surprised and actually expect the Supreme Court to tell Dominos to file an appeal then file their brief with them.

Submitted by ming on Saturday, September 7, 2019

hey! I think apple can set a rule that make sure the apps or games is accessible for all users!
because apple already have guide or tools to tell people that how to make their apps accessible!
and yeah! it will be good

I agree with you on the ALT text issue. although I only use Instagram, it has the same issues.
also, apple's own image description method is also not so accurate. when I tap with 3 fingers on any other image except that in my photos app, it just says center of screen. I hope these will be made more accurate in the later updates. I'm a new IOS user so have not encountered anything else except that whatsapp should also incorporate something for the VI users in terms of Images.
thank you

That will never actually happen and you know it. There have ben debates like this and not all games can be made accessible, nor do devs want to. It's sad and I wish it were not like this but some devs I've talked to do not want to or think it's too hard after they read the documentation.

Submitted by Scott Thompson - Applitools on Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Hi all, thank you for your comments. I'm currently working on the article and I value all of your feedback and input.

Submitted by J.P. on Wednesday, September 25, 2019

I’m not sure when companies are unaware, or just don’t care.
I’ve had success and conference calls with Amazon, Walmart Grocery, Hayneedle, Smiths, Vons Verizon and Sonos. Each of these companies put me directly in contact with Accessibility Leads. Many went through screens to identify issues. These companies were caring, more unaware. Verizon has faltered some. My iPhone upgrade on 13th had some clear accessibility lapses.
Dominos and Pizza Hut just don’t care. Pizza Hut had an accessible app until about a year ago. You can order from website, but phantom buttons on app, as well as buttons that don’t respond. Corporate didn’t care.
American Eagle and Express are somewhat accessible. Their product headers are the issue. Often unlabeled. AE has a dedicated accessibility contact link within app, but no response when I tried to engage.
Larger companies are more receptive to accessibility feedback. That’s been my experience. Some companies have reached out on their own. Just to make sure updates are working out in the wild.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Wednesday, September 25, 2019

In reply to by J.P.

Both. They do not care or do not have the time or interest to do the changes. Sometimes they do not know although today how can someone state they do not know anything about accessibility specially when apple has made comments about it.