A Week’s Worth of Reminders of How Accessibility Sits at the Very Heart of Apple’s Ethos and Practice

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

During the past week there has been a series of small reminders of how accessibility sits at the very heart of Apple’s ethos and practice.

The first of these came in one of the videos shown as part of the keynote presentation at last week’s Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC). Featured prominently was a piano app for the iPad being developed by the Ludwig Project, which will seek to bring music to the hearing impaired by enabling them to sense music through vibration.

Shortly after the keynote presentation, the ceremony was held to announce the winners of this year’s Apple Design Awards. These prestigious awards are given to the mobile and desktop apps which Apple believes raise the bar in design, technology and innovation. One of the winners was the Workflow iOS app, which was specifically selected for its outstanding use of iOS accessibility features. Two members of Apple’s Accessibility Team, both of whom are blind themselves, were invited onto stage to demonstrate to the audience just how well the app works with VoiceOver.

For most consumers. interest in the WWDC won’t extend much further than the keynote presentation. However, for the developers attending, the rest of the week provides an opportunity to get an in-depth look at what iOS, OS X and now watchOS can offer. Apple traditionally has more than 1000 of its engineers in attendance, and holds various sessions and labs to help and inform developers.

One strand of that help is to work with developers to ensure that their apps are as accessible as possible. This year, Steven Aquino was granted unprecedented levels of access at WWDC to see this in action. In his TechCrunch article on accessibility at WWDC, he reports that “the accessibility presence at WWDC is deep and far-reaching”, and that “Apple does much to raise awareness of and advocate for the accessibility community.”

The final reminder for now of how Apple regards accessibility comes from it currently featuring on the App Store in the US a collection of popular iOS apps which it says “deliver a great VoiceOver experience to all users”.

These are the apps highlighted by Apple:

Taken individually, everything mentioned above may seem relatively minor. However, when viewed collectively, it demonstrates how embedded accessibility is within the day-to-day ethos and practice at Apple. It’s just what they do.

We would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the iOS apps that Apple chose to include in its featured App Store collection. Did they get it right? What would have been your own choices? Let us know in the comments below.

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Submitted by Rich Cavallaro on Thursday, June 18, 2015

It's really cool that Apple featured these apps in regards to accessibility. It iss curious that kNFB reader wasn't listed. Although I guess there were reasons they chose the apps they chose

Submitted by Laszlo on Thursday, June 18, 2015

First, it's great to see Apple highlighting (and recognizing) those apps with good VoiceOver support. Over time, I hope this category is expanded...as I think new and experienced VoiceOver users alike can never have too many trusted places for accessible app recommendations.

Overall, I think Apple's editors mostly hit the mark with the app list. I do, however, have to wonder about the inclusion of Twitterrific. My experiences providing suggestions and politely constructive feedback to Twitterrific's developers haven't always been positive, and thus I feel like I'm annoying them when I contact them about an issue. I know what I'm doing with VoiceOver, and a developer minimizing my issue or automatically assuming it's either (1) operator error or (2) simply a VoiceOver problem in iOS certainly doesn't leave me feeling great about the app.

With all that said, Twitterrific is a fine app, and they certainly have done a great job of making it accessible and keeping it that way consistently. Up until recently, Twitterrific was what I used, but I switched to Tweetings because of its ease-of-use, custom rotor actions, in-tweet article mobilizer, and the large number of customizable options in-app.

Submitted by Ekaj on Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thanks for this wonderful post. I think the only 2 apps mentioned in this list that I've used on the Mac platform are iBooks, and Pages to an extent although I haven't used Pages that much yet. Having said that though, I think these 2 apps do indeed have great accessibility. My additions to the list would be Night Owl, Serotek's iBlink Radio app for Mac, and Battery Monitor. I'm not so sure I need Battery Monitor anymore though since the system notification for a low battery is now accessible, but I'm hanging onto this app just in case I do need it again. As far as the iOS apps mentioned in the list are concerned, I don't know but I'll take others' word for now. But if this whole thing isn't a clear indication of Apple's ongoing commitment to accessibility, then buy me a bridge in Brooklyn. Or however that saying goes, lol!

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Thursday, June 18, 2015

I think it's a good idea for pges to be incuded, although under osx at least I wish the stupid select over page boundries with voice over on might be fixed. There is a work around but it is a bit complex. and I need to look at the message again. I'll probably write up a short guide. it won't be anything fancy like Alex Hall's guides but there you go.

Take care and be blessed.

Submitted by Chris Smart on Thursday, June 18, 2015

While I applaud Apple for making accessibility integral to what they do, I think more needs to come from Apple aimed at third-party developers who are either ignorant of accessibility in general, or who know but decide not to make their products accessible. End users complaining to app developers can do a lot of good, but Apple clearly have more clout. Granted, I'm focused more on apps for musicians. I'm thinking of Positive Grid and IK Multimedia as two examples of developers who, for whatever reason, refuse to include us.

Hopefully Apple are making more accessibility gains with Logic Audio as well.

Submitted by Chris on Thursday, June 18, 2015


Does Apple have a list of Mac apps like those in the featured section of the iOS app store? When did this stuff appear? I'm honestly amazed.

Submitted by Nicolai Svendsen on Monday, June 22, 2015

Club AppleVis Member

I agree with some of the apps they selected, and Twitterrific has been pretty good I think when it comes to the experience. I've never had problems with their support personally, although I find it odd with the new "Notification" label when the app speaks to VoiceOver to notify of events. According to them, it's to prevent people from getting confused, but I'm not sure how you can become confused since the app primarily speaks when you perform actions.

I do not agree with Skype at all. While Skype is accessible enough, the experience itself is horrid on my phone, especially when you are on a call. Most of the time I can barely get the app to respond when talking to someone, and when chats appear while you are inside the application, it practically freezes for a few seconds.

I don't disagree with some of the others, either, but I won't comment on them since I haven't used a lot of them for a while. Things could have changed drastically.

Submitted by Lorelei on Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Maybe it's just me, but I think they should have included PayPal. For that matter, I don't think I've seen PayPal get credit anywhere, and it made my life way easier. It's an excellent interface and runs really well. I also think it would maybe be nice if Apple made this page of apps somewhat less hidden. Lol. I had no idea it existed, and I swear I thought I'd looked. But of the other apps on the list I've used, I agree wholeheartedly.