Apple's app review team (Accessible Hangman)

Forum
Accessibility Advocacy

Hi all.
As some of you may know, I am a totally blind iOS game developer. Among other games I have made accessible Hangman, Choose your Face, etc.
Well, about 3 days ago I found out a bug which prevented iOS 15 users from running my game accessible hangman. I submitted an update to the app store fixing this problem. To my surprise, I got an email saying that my app is similar to other apps on the app store and that it is considered spam. Literally.

I went ahead and submitted an appeal saying that I am making games for the blind and that 1, while yes, there are other accessible hangman games on the app store, my app is made for the blind and and that all the other hangman games I have seen on the app store are half playable and 2, this is a bugfix update and already existing users who have paid for the app are unable to play using iOS 15.

To my horror, they replied saying that yes, "we understand that your app has voiceover", hello? My app has voiceover? But unfortunately the rejection is still in place.

So I am stuck not knowing what to do. I have written an email template here for you to please support me and send to
accessibility@apple.com

My suggestion is the following:
Dear Apple,
I am writing as a user of the game accessible Hangman for iOS developed by Oriol Gómez https://apps.apple.com/us/app/id1528856181

The developer is unable to submit a new update to the app because the app review team claims that this app is not compliant with the design guidelines 4.3 of the app store, however as a blind user of the app I would like to say that this hangman game is different than other games I have played.

I have paid money for this app and I want to play it on iOS 15 too,s o please allow an update to be submitted.

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Thank you guys, I'm not so good at explaining these things in a formal way right now especially because I am a bit overwelmed, my users have paid for an app which they can't use.

Thanks please share this and if you want to get in touch with me my email is ogomez.s92@gmail.com

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Comments

Submitted by Oriol Gomez on Sunday, September 26, 2021

Please even if you haven't played the game, try to support or spread the word or email Apple because I believe this is important. I'm not trying to be like blindfold games where I make a tempalte of all apps and just change the game with the same visual design or anything, I am genuinely getting logos, sounds, music, from people, coding every single app from scratch, pls help me out.

Submitted by David Standen on Sunday, September 26, 2021

I just wrote to Apple. The only other accessible Hangman game I have played is the one within Game World, and that is completely different. In my opinion, I think yours is the better game because it becomes more challenging as you level up.

Submitted by Christel john on Sunday, September 26, 2021

I contacted apple to.
I hope we can update the app

Submitted by HEXAGON on Sunday, September 26, 2021

Hi,
As I heard about this game for the first time, I‘m just curious about what the issue exactly is. Is the game currently not playable at all?

Many thanks!

Submitted by Jo Billard on Sunday, September 26, 2021

Done. Hopefully they'll listen to us. Right now, for me, it isn't about the game. I really, really hate injustice!

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Sunday, September 26, 2021

Did flexy keyboard had similar issue? Suggest beside asking us, share your issue with apple insider, 9to5 and tweet this also send an email to Jonathan Mosen to support you.

Submitted by Clare Page on Sunday, September 26, 2021

Hi! I've just emailed Apple Accessibility to ask for Accessible Hangman to be updated. In answer to a previous poster, the game is currently not playable on iPhones running IOS 15: when I try to open the app on mine, it won't open at all, even though it shows up in the app switcher. I have never had problems with this game using any other IOS version, and I even tried reinstalling the app in the last few days to see if it would work, but I still had the same problem as when I tried opening the app just after installing IOS 15.

Submitted by John Hope on Sunday, September 26, 2021

I've just emailed Apple. Good luck!

Submitted by Devin Prater on Sunday, September 26, 2021

Perhaps you could be the first blind publisher of an app on Alt Store, in protest of this. Apple is coming for us now, and we should be ready to subvert them if needed. #WePayToo

Submitted by Oriol Gomez on Sunday, September 26, 2021

In reply to by Devin Prater

I have never tried the alt store, but it does not seem to be well known at all is it? That is beside the point anyway, most blind users who will play my games go directly to the app store, I don't know how the alt store works. ☹️

Submitted by Joe on Sunday, September 26, 2021

Club AppleVis Member

I really enjoy your games I wrote to Apple. Thanks for all the hard work. Have you ever thought of doing something on Android? I know the user base over there is growing. Apple continues to treat devs as dog crap if you except the app once why now is it a problem?

Submitted by Oriol Gomez on Sunday, September 26, 2021

Thanks guys. I dunno about Android, it's an idea. But for me it's about justice, and the fact that I've always loved apple for what they are doing. If I just give this up my paying users will just think I'm grabbing their money and not caring about updates, so people who are on Android will not buy my games either. This sucks. They could have told me they didn't like accessible hangman before I had posted the first version, right?

Submitted by tcwalther on Sunday, September 26, 2021

Update: just saw your new reply which you posted while I was writing this. I guess that makes most of my reply obsolete. But I'll keep it here for future reference, and maybe you'll find a few useful bits in there, too. Don't stress out about the phone call ;-).


Dear Oriol,

I just signed up here as I read about your case on Hacker News.

I encourage you to keep appealing to the review team. Just keep on replying, reiterating your case. If you end up in a deadlock, ask for an explanation behind their decision. Keep on emphasising the accessibility angle.

Eventually, if it cannot be resolved in text form, they will tell you that they will call you to talk to you directly. At that point, you can make your case on the phone. The person will not decide your case instantly but instead say something generic like "I will talk to the team and get back to you", but your chances are extremely high that at that point, your app will be approved.

When you actually talk to an App Store Review Team member directly, they - in my experience - are very polite and open-minded. Even before that, just being firm (but polite!) on your points is super helpful.

Most of all, don't despair. Maybe you have to write back and forth a few times, and yes, it's annoying, in particular because their text answers are clearly the result of ticking a few check boxes on their end, but I'm very optimistic you will get your update through in the end.

Best, Thomas

Submitted by Oriol Gomez on Sunday, September 26, 2021

Hi, thanks so much for your replies, and your help with the appeal process.
Yeah, I'll get a call from then soon and we'll see how it goes.
I'm a blind developer and it has been my dream for a while to make iOS games, hangman is not my only game but it was still one of the games I really enjoyed making and, of course, I don't want to leave my users behind.
Thanks and let's hope everyone can play it fine now as soon as the update is rolled out 🙂

Submitted by Oriol Gomez on Monday, September 27, 2021

Hi, can you confirm whether the new update was posted and that it is working on iOS 15? I will have a call with Apple about the app soon, will let you know the outcome.
Thanks.

Submitted by Mister Kayne on Monday, September 27, 2021

Totally unrelated comment but I am to my extremes of frustrations after updating to IOS 15. Reminds me of my grand fathers saying; if it ain't broke don't fix it! But I am stuck between the old and the new generations so I decided to update the IOS to 15. It broke the only app. that I enjoyed using to make my life simpler i.e. Shortcuts the interface has changed totally and I cannot do so many things that I was able to when it was on 14.7

Sorry to say but the success is getting to apples head and something tells me all that talk about accessibility linked to compensation of executives was just a PR exercise and please I appreciate IOS accessibility compared to android but also please give me that confidence with my device like you did when I started off with your phones

After reading the news above that the update to Accessible Hangman has been allowed through, in spite of Apple saying this app doesn't comply with its guidelines, I have updated the app, and I am pleased to tell you that it's working perfectly in IOS 15 on my iPhone SE 2020. I had to start a new game because I reinstalled the app after it temporarily stopped working for me, but playing Accessible Hangman now works as it should, as does continuing the game after closing and reopening the app.

Submitted by Dave Nason on Monday, September 27, 2021

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Hi Oriol. Good to hear, and hopefully it gets sorted out properly on the call.
Yes, the update came through for me this morning and it seems to be working fine now.
Dave

Submitted by Oriol Gomez on Monday, September 27, 2021

I got a further call from Apple and everything seems to be fine. The guy, unbelievably, said that it was probably the app icon which triggered the spam warning (I used an icon from an open source icon catalogue). He also appologized for how the review team handled my appeal in regards to the "we do understand that your app has voiceover" part, and how they are going to make sure this doesn't happen again. So yeah let's just say that no one has any idea what they're doing. If it really was the app icon, or it's just an excuse to get out of a sticky situation, I have no idea.

Submitted by Jo Billard on Monday, September 27, 2021

The game is working perfectly on my 8+. I was delighted to find it in my updates. Praying Apple sees the light here.

Submitted by Alan on Monday, September 27, 2021

Glad to hear that. Hope soon you'll be creating new and exciting games such as guess the number, battleship, etc. We will purchase any simple and expensive game released by a blind developer, even if this developer's opinion is: don't let blind users test your games before purchasing or they will never pay for them. Moreover, someone should write a book about you, I'll put my money on this Quickstarter campain as well.
Good luck!

Submitted by David Standen on Monday, September 27, 2021

I am also pleased all went well with Apple and that the representative was very apologetic about what took place.

Submitted by Roxann Pollard on Monday, September 27, 2021

I hadn't heard of your game until this post. Downloading now to have both hours of fun and to stick it to apple just a little. LOL Yes, I am a true Apple fan girl, but this sort of treatment is just not acceptable. Hope that, in some way, my downloading will boost your stats and give them something to think about the next time someone in your situation is struggling just to be understood. I, too, really hate injustice.

Happy gaming.

Submitted by Oriol Gomez on Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Hi,
Not sure what you mean about a kickstarter campaign and a book? I hope no one is making a book about me, that is a bit unnecessary at this point. I'm fine with just my blog and such.

About guess the numbert, I dunno. I think I will get rejected for spam again, because guess the number is such a simple game and overused. I'm thinking of another word game though, and several other ideas which aren't word games. Now that we're on this topic, what sort of games would you like to see?

Submitted by David Standen on Tuesday, September 28, 2021

I would like to see some of your old Windows games on IOS, such as "Insect Therapy" and"Danger on the Wheel". That would be totally awesome..

Submitted by al-Salil on Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Hello,
Personally I most of the time only install strategy type of games.
Sports strategy and simulation games but also tycoon games is fun.
An accessible Civilization type of game on the iPhone would be awesome or war strategy.
You get the idea :-)

Submitted by DrummerGuy on Tuesday, September 28, 2021

I enjoy playing hangman. It's pretty good. I love it.
I am glad everything went well with Apple and that we can continue playing your game.
Well, actually, this is my first time today I'm playing one of your games. I'm going to look for more.