How does everyone feel about Apple’s new accessibility feature, letting websites know that a person is using voice-over.

iOS & iPadOS

I’m glad that the feature exists for people who wish to use it, buqt personally I don’t think I will.
I’m not quite sure how it will work, so I might change my mind but currently, the thing I like about the Internet is that I can participate in most places as an equal with everyone else and I think letting people know that I’m using a screen reader could be detrimental to that.
There is an old quote to the extent that on the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog and I agree, but was wondering what others thought.



Submitted by Ekaj on Tuesday, April 2, 2019

I haven't played around with this feature much yet, but it looks good. This might be a bit far-fetched at this point, but I'm wondering if perhaps the feature will automatically make inaccessible websites accessible? I think this could be a good thing in terms of making more people aware of things like section 508 and its equivalent laws outside the United States. But I can also see the point about not wanting people to know stuff like this. I'm excited to see how this feature is received going forward.

Submitted by Brian Tew on Tuesday, April 2, 2019

seems good to me, and sounds like they made it optional
instead of jamming it down our throats as the big companies often have.
I like having the option to use or not use a feature.

Submitted by eclectica on Tuesday, April 2, 2019

In my opinion, I do not think web sites or apps should force those who utilize assistive technology to use a different version of those sites or apps. For example, Amazon has a "screen reader-friendly" version of its site, but I do not prefer it, because it actually takes longer and more clicks (or presses of enter in my case) to get to the information I want. I would be upset if Amazon decided that just because I use a screen reader that I want a simplified interface. The same goes for other sites and apps.

On iOS it’s under Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Web and on macOS it’s in VoiceOver Utility > Web > General.
It should be noted that this feature does not make websites more accessible on its own. All it does is tell the page a screen reader is running, and the page does whatever it wants with that information.
This is not a new idea. Web developers and web accessibility people have considered adding things like this for years. Everything I have read from these people has indicated that once they thought through it, they didn’t think it was a good idea to introduce such a feature into browsers.
I can post some links to good articles about this once I get back to my Mac.
Like a previous commentor said, we may not understand fully what this is yet.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Wednesday, April 3, 2019

People complain about web pages not accessible yet they are going to turn off it? Where is the logic? If you turn it off which is your right stop complaining about web page not accessible.

Submitted by Tim on Wednesday, April 3, 2019

To explain... This feature does not make a site or application more accessible. All it does is that it allows the site or application to find out whether or not you are using Voiceover.
The idea is that this feature would allow developers to write code that detects if you are using Voiceover and only then turn on some accessibility features for the site or application.

My full time job is to assist developers and designers in making their applications and sites more accessible. My personal opinion is that there may be some situations where such a feature would be useful but those situations are likely very rare and can easily be addressed using some other method.

Personally, I think Apple's big mistake in adding this feature is that Voiceover users are not prompted and asked if they want to turn the feature on. Instead iOS automatically opts you into the feature and you have to choose to opt out.

Users should have to choose to opt into this feature. In part that is because it is a privacy issue. This feature allows sites to discover additional information about you--similar to sites that use tracking to find out information about you. If Apple is serious about privacy, then users should be required to choose to opt into this feature--not automatically be opted in.The other problem I have with this feature is that it really isn't useful to users. I have seen many sites that provide a link that will allow a user to turn on "accessibility features" for that site. Unfortunately, most of the time it seems that turning on that feature removes functionality, has no apparent effect, or makes the site even less accessible. I don't really see this feature improving accessibility based on that past experience.

I would be ok with Apple adding this feature if users choose to opt in. However, I strongly suspect the usefulness of this feature to users is extremely limited to specialized situations and only those situations where the developers and designers of a site are knowledgeable about accessibility.

Just my opinion for what it is worth.

Submitted by charles on Wednesday, April 3, 2019

If it lets the site developer know how many Voice-Over users are accessing their site, they will see how many of us there are, and will see the importance of accessible web design. Hopefully, they will take appropriate steps to improve accessibility. I do agree, though, that the feature should be turned on by the user after being asked if you want it to be turned on.

Submitted by Roxann Pollard on Wednesday, April 3, 2019

First of all, I hadn't heard of this new feature so thanks to the original poster on this topic. As the subject says, I personally feel it's just another way for big brother to watch my life and that's not happening. I have disabled this feature permenantly.

Submitted by Jared on Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Apple obviously believes that blind users are not entitled to the same level of privacy as sited users. Because this feature was enabled for a week with out me knowing it's likely that add tracking networks now have the fact that I am blind as part of there profiles on me. If Apple bothered to engage with the accessibility community like Microsoft or Google maybe this would not have made it in or been disabled by default. People should be a lot more upset about this and contacting Apple to determine why blind users are not entitled to the same level of privacy as sited users. Of course Apple will never give us an answer because based on there recent behavior they do not feel it's necessary to discuss accessibility with disabled users. They will do what they think is best with accessibility and we will like it because we have no way to communicate with them. After I found out about this I've started looking at what Android phone I can buy to determine if I can make the switch since Google at least is an active participant with the disabled community.

Submitted by Piotr Machacz on Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Sounds like I might be in the minority here, but I can think of uses for this API, mainly on iOS for multimedia style apps. If I'm making a game using web technology and want to make use of the touch screen for gesture controls, VoiceOver is just going to get in my way and intercept the gestures. If it was a native app, I could just mark the gameboard as needing direct touch, but the web doesn't have an equivalent for this. So, being able to pause and wait for someone to turn off VoiceOver before starting the game is the second best thing. Does it have privacy implications? Definitely, and this could have been handled much better. For the mainstream media, iOS 12.2 did something opposite to what happened here with web API's, specifically with obtaining data from the iPhones accelerometer, which was used by things like augmented reality or even Apple's own website so you could pan around pictures of iPhones by tilting your phone. Before, this feature was just there and always worked, but with iOS 12.2, Apple decided to turn it off by default, not warn the user that a site is doing this and hide the switch to turn it back on deep in the Safari section of the settings app. They did this because an incredibly small number of sites used this to track motion data from users.

Obviously, checking whether you're using accessibility services has privacy implications, and can be used for fingerprinting, so perhaps what Apple should have done here is offer a permission request prompt like it already does for location services or microphone access, because there are still times this can be useful for a website, for example a voice assistant may provide more or less information by speech based on whether you are using a screen reader or not, like how Siri does now.

Also, if you are really bothered about this to the point you're considering switching platforms, then I'm sorry to say you're gonna be stuck with the same problem. If you think this has only started happening now, congratulations, you have been blissfully unaware that native iOS apps can track your state of accessibility services for the past 9 years, and because ad networks can and do correlate data this information is already out there. And if you think switching to Android will make you safe, native Android apps have also had this ability for years and Google is the biggest ad network in the world right now.

Submitted by Hendrik on Wednesday, April 3, 2019

I can't see this feature doing much; it's web developers who need to write a second version of their apps and pages. That is a lot of work which means it will cost more money. The fact that Apple created this feature bothers me. This can sent the wrong message to developpers -- giving them a 'loop hole' to dodge accessibility. But what bothers me even more is the fact that this _may_ allow websites to gather info about your device. It is a privicy thing for me. If I want to give your site info about me or my device, I will do so; don't just auto-grab that info. I am going to switch to Android sooner than later not only because of this and other things that makes me unhappy about Apple. Yes, big brother is watching, no matter wherever you are and no matter what device you're using. But like someone stated: Google is actively involved with it's accessibility community. Tip: If you want to switch, look at Android One devices. They are very accessible. And, PS: A person commented and said this feature is good, because it will tell developers exactly how many VO users visit their pages and hopefully this will force them to re-think accessibility... The coin goes the other way too: They may see how few we actually are and make them think "it's not worth spending so much money on development for so few users...".
have a nice day

Submitted by Jeff on Wednesday, April 3, 2019

One question I have is which browsers get this information if it's enabled? Is screen reader usage exposed to all browsers or just Safari?

Also, I wonder if this should be a browser setting rather than a global setting and allow it to be configured on a site-by-site basis. That way, one could enable it only for sites that make use of it responsibly.

Submitted by Francisco crespo on Wednesday, April 3, 2019

I fully agree with the privacy concerns that were discussed here, but I would like to add a different perspective. Disclosing our blindness authomatically can be discriminatory even if we do not know that. For example, a hotel could easily say to a blind person thas is SoldOut or an employer could refuse all applications submitted with a screen reader. I think there are already ways to disclosure screen reader use on specific websites and therefore this should not be even an option.

Submitted by Adrian Wyka on Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The sad thing is that Apple introduces such minor features, and does not fix bugs in systems that cause frustration when using VoiceOver.
Why do I say that it is not important? Because if webmasters do not introduce a version for the screen reader, this function is useless.

Submitted by Snorlax on Thursday, April 4, 2019

Personally, I think it is great that Apple gives us the option to have this on or off. The power is to you. Those on Windows platform and use any kind of screen reader the sites already know that you are using a reader. It doesn't give me any options to have this turned off. I would think people would be up in arms with that then a silly feature that can be turned on or off for you with Apple. So, I don't understand why people would be mad at Apple for such a feature that is in your hand to decide. Yes, I understand that we don't want to be singled out and just want to be treated like any others but look at the Google site. Do a Search and noticed that on the Windows platform using a screen reader it knows that you are using an assistive technology as it tries to be made your experience better. This can be bad, and it can be good. I really have a hard time seeing some company would use this information against us such as job employments and such. It would be almost no different than the impression they have when you show up for an interview and noticed that you are blind. We have laws against this and to protect us so I disagree that this would be used against us. Besides once again I prefer Apple to give us the option unlike Microsoft where it does not. Blaming or getting upset with Apple is pointless in my view. As I know that others may not see it as that way.

Just my two cents.