How to deal with Uber's brush-off?

Accessibility Advocacy

Hello Everyone,

On Jan. 26, Uber released an update to its iOS app that made the service inaccessible to blind people who rely on VoiceOver.

After several email exchanges with Uber, a number of us in the blind community received promises that Uber would work on the issues and release an update.

Uber eventually promised a Feb. 16 update that would address VoiceOver issues.

The update hit the streets on Feb. 23 without any accessibility fixes.

It is clear that continued email correspondence with Uber, alone, is not going to be sufficient.

The question is: what should we do now?

Let's take our advocacy to the next level.

What should that next level look like?

What should happen after that?

Please let loose with all your ideas in the comments!





Submitted by sockhopsinger on Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I can't swipe on the screen, but I still have no difficulty in selecting my car or setting my pickup location.

Submitted by Gadget Meistress on Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Rather than just sticking with the uber app itself, I found I was able to get around the inaccessibility issue by using BlindSquare's gateway to Uber no problem. Yes, I did see some swiping issues with just the Uber app itself when setting up a ride, so I went through BlindSquare to solve that problem. Not sure how much change there has been since the latest update. Hoping that if nothing else, the update does not affect also the access through BlindSquare.

Submitted by Deb on Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I updated my IPhone 5 to the newest version of IOS from IOS 7.1.2. I am able to use the app now, not by swiping, but as others have said by placing finger on screen until locate the pick up location and can easily get the ride. It is not perfect, but certainly usable. However unless you update to new version of IOS, it is not accessible.

Submitted by Toonhead on Tuesday, February 24, 2015

This is when accessibility advocacy really gets difficult, because you have some people who can use the app while others it seems, aren't able to. The only point they'd probably even listen is if the app becomes completely unusable with VoiceOver, and I seriously hope that never happens. Some parts of the app are certainly usable but accessibility could certainly be better.

Submitted by charles on Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I would let Apple know of the accessability issues that were promised and not delivered. I would everyone I know, and have them continue the process, know about their lack of mas customer service issues. I would then let Uber know what you have done and why.

Submitted by cjackson on Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I would contact the nfb if you feel you have done all you can to try and resolve the issue. I personally don't use uber because i have heard of several instances of them over charging people hear in Wichita Ks. The nfb is great at making companies include accessibility in apps.

Submitted by Darrell Hilliker on Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I believe the issue here is actually quite clear. Apple provides guidelines for app developers to make sure their software is accessible to VoiceOver, thus including blind people in the experience.

On Jan. 26, Uber released an update that failed to comply with Apple's guidelines, thus excluding the vast majority of the blind user community, who are not geeky, advanced screen-reader users.

Advocacy began and Uber promised a Feb. 16 update to correct the issues.

Not only has Feb. 16 come and gone, but Uber released another update that failed to correct said issues.

Uber representatives have been provided exhaustive descriptions of our issues along with information about how to resolve them, but has not fixed them or engaged in any serious discussions concerning how to move forward.

I would think that what we want would be simple enough. We want Uber to release an update that complies with Apple's accessibility guidelines, then continue following those guidelines for each and every update moving forward.

Failure to be accessible is not simply a matter of incompatible technology, but one of exclusion of a group of people because of their disability.

Since Uber has become a critical part of the transportation toolbox for many blind people, let's put a serious effort into getting the company to make this right!

Submitted by Scottsdale on Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Based on watching accessibility come and sometimes go in plenty of other apps, I'd hardly call an accidental breakage and one missed date a brush off. I'm not saying it's not regrettable, and as someone who had to hand my phone to somebody I hardly knew the other night because the environment at my gig was too bustling and noisy for me to locate the fields I definitely would like foolproof access to be restored, but I think it's vital to have perspective before blustrering on about the rowdier forms of advocacy.

With that in mind, has anyone heard from Uber since the date was missed? Was there a reason? Is there a revised commitment available?

If all of the above questions have been asked in a constructive way and we are actually being stonewalled, then have at it.

Submitted by William on Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I want to add my thoughts to this issue.

Version 2.58 was the version that broke accessibility, and there have been two updates since then, version 2.59 and 2.62. Neither one of them have fixed the issues from what I understand, so I have not updated.

There are two issues as I understand it: The first is the swiping issue that we are discussing, and I have also seen complaints about being unable to accept a higher fair at all when surge pricing is in affect.

There have been two updates since these issues started, and neither of these updates have addressed the issues. I am with Darrell; I think it is time to be more vocal about this. I would like to at least know why it is taking them so long and so many updates to address the issue.

Here is something to think about. I think it is absolutely unacceptable that you had to hand your phone to someone you barely know. That person could have easily volunteered to help you then taken off with your phone.

Gadget Meistress,
It is good that you can still use Blindsquare for this, but that isn't really relevant to the issue. We shouldn't have to depend on using other apps to gain access to Uber.

Submitted by Saqib on Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hi. is the dev even leagally obliged to comply with this request to mintain accessibility for VO users. I don't like using the word accessible as everything is accessible but just not always to blind people. If the answer is no to the original question then jumping all over the dev over each update is most likely end up him sticking 2 fingers up at the blind community. Some of this just reaks of I'm blind and must be able to use the app or I will spit my dummy out. I use IOS as well as Android and IOS users have it far easier than anyone who uses any other platform because an IOS device is not affordible within their personal budget. I'm all for advocating accessibility just like anyone else but seriously even I've had to knock a few things on the head and accept that the dev isn't interested in keeping a good dialog with a small percentage of users who need him or her to go that extra mile to make a an app user friendly for all.

Submitted by William on Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hi Saqib,

part of the issue here is that Uber assured several people the voice over fixes would be in this update and they are not.

In my opinion, that is where the brush-off comes from.

I don't know why Uber hasn't fixed the bugs. It could be a lack of knowledge about accessibility or it could be that accessibility is a low priority issue for them.

If it is a lack of knowledge about accessibility, there are people who can help them with that.

If accessibility is a low priority issue for Uber, it is up to us, their customers, to be sure they understand that it is an important issue.


Submitted by Toonhead on Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I don't think there's any doubt that Uber definitely dropped the ball on this one. If the accessibility fixes weren't going to be in this update, it would've been nice to know so we wouldn't have updated. In the programming world it's a good idea to never make promises you can't keep, and they did just that. If they do intend to fix the accessibility issues, I hope it'll be soon.

I agree, handing the phone over did feel like something of a gamble, and didn't feel good. I'm not saying that this is a non-issue, far from it, just pointing out that the pattern we've seen so far isn't unusual. Hopefully the situation is salvageable, but I'm not convinced the tone being adopted in the post that started this discussion will be conducive to a speedy fix. So far as I can tell, developers are more likely to make moves after hearing personal experiences. Taking a harder line sets a president, a president that we don't really have any weight behind, and it can easily be dismissed as a small group of disgruntled users. I'm pretty confident in saying that if there is a solution to be had, dialog will get to that faster than demands in most cases.

I've written to Uber with a concise account of the other night, explained how better VO support would've helped, and asked for some clarification on when to expect fixes. I'd encourage you to do the same, so long as you can distinguish between an earnest request and a demand.

Submitted by Scottsdale on Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Just a note for anybody who was following this thread to let you know that yesterday, Uber pushed out a new version. Seems like the main screen is usable once again here on iOS 7, and it's also confirmed to be the case on iOS 8. There is a slight oddity in that the flicking order doesn't mirror the actual GUI layout, but hey, it's usable.

What I haven't been able to confirm yet is whether the surge pricing screen has also been improved. If you find out before me, please post here and let people know, as there might still be emails that need to be sent.

Brush off, no. Patience, yes.

Submitted by Toonhead on Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I couldn't agree more, sometimes patience is necessary, and our notes paid off because they listened. In fact, I didn't have very many problems using the earlier versions of the app, because I knew that dragging your finger around the screen was gonna get it done. I'm glad they made it a bit easier, for sure.

Submitted by Jesus R on Saturday, March 7, 2015

I came to applevis to see what was new with uber as I saw a tweet a few days ago. Nothing has really improved from the last updatek,t hat I can see. But one thing I am having trouble with now is the choosing a car. I can see the Uber X button near the bottom of the screen, however, when I tap on it, it vanishes and I can't seam to find any text on screen that indcates where it went. In a different vertion it told me the X raits, but I did't see a uber black or sub kind. Maybe they arn't in my area? I'm in Oregon. Do people have trouble with this screen as well?

Submitted by Toonhead on Saturday, March 7, 2015

Hi. In the newest version, at least in iOS 8, the type of Uber that is selected is Uber x, which is what you'd want to use. It's pretty simple. First, double tap on the element that informs you of how far away someone is to you, the element says something like, set pickup location, ETA 5 minutes, button. on the next screen, one of the first things you'll see is what looks like a confirmation screen. do not be alarmed as you have not actually contacted anyone yet. The next thing you'll need to do is set the destination point, AKA where you want the Uber driver to take you. so on this next screen, swipe over to the button that says add destination, and then you can type in the address you want to go to. If you swipe over once after typing this in, there will be a button that matches your location, so double tap on that. If you want to get a fare estimate, you can then double-tap on the fare estimate button and see if it's something that'll work for you. If it does, press the close button on that screen to return to the screen you were before. Next, you can then double tap on the request Uber x button and you'll then hear, requesting, ... and then hopefully a few seconds later, you'll be told who accepted your ride, and how long it'll take them to get to you. I hope that explains it a bit better.

Thanks for letting me know how it works. I've done Uber before, I've just never took uber black or uber sub. If for example, My party is five or six people, maybe this is when I'd like to get Uber L. But I can't seam to do that. Uber X is just one of two or three other Uber types and I'd like to get access to.

Submitted by Toonhead on Sunday, March 8, 2015

If you have a group of say, 4 5 or even 6 people, choose uber xl. if everyone splits the fare it can be pretty cost-effective.