Request for Accessibility Category in iTunes App Store
Hi guys! As a developer I have sent a request to Apple with hopes of the future that developers are given the option before uploading their app to the appstore to specify if it accessible or not. Also, I requested that there be an advance search or possible category for consumers. The Apple Team answered back swiftly here is the email below:
Thank you for contacting Apple Developer Program Support regarding App Categories, and adding the ability for developers to add accessibility to their apps, and also adding an advanced search method for accessible apps.
We understand the importance of your feedback and it is taken seriously here at Apple. We love to constantly improve our products, services, and experiences of our customers and developers. We want to take a second to take you for your honest and thoughtful feedback.
Please be assured that all of your comments have been forwarded to the appropriate Apple team.
If you have further questions or comments, please let us know. Our number is 1-800-633-2152 Monday-Friday 9am-7pm central time. We are happy to help!
I hope that in the near future there is some progress at least!
I don't think there should be an "accessibility" category, like medical, books, music, entertainment, etc. I think a better approach might be an accessibility rating, for example, or some kind of flag that we could add to searches to see if something is marked as being accessible.
Yes I have also requested a section in the developers area. I was thinking about the rating area but that would not make much sense but it would prove that it is accessible and when it goes the review it will be tested against to insure quality.
Well, baby steps are better than no steps!
Whenever I want to know if an app is VoiceOver-friendly, this is the first place I visit to find out what others are saying. If nobody's commented on it and if the app is free I'll try it and maybe if it's good I'll submit it to the app directory. Applevis already has all these tools in place, so why re-invent the wheel? It's good already.
Mainly to encourage more developers to start developing with accessibility in mind. I've seen it in the past, that for example when new categories or features are added to the App store, many developers like to be on top and offer something that most people don't. So that it will in turn give them more downloads.. This way everyone wins, but of course that won't eliminate users who may or possibly abuse such feature/category/etc..
Applevis of course is at the forefront and will remain so, it could increase its members with more developers who would like to improve their apps by including accessible content/hints/labels etc.
Just my opinion!
While I realize your intentions are well-meaning, I think this is a fundamentally flawed idea.
The biggest issue with your idea, as presented, is that you appear to rely on the developers to indicate accessibility and users to take that at face value. I don't know about anyone else, but a developer's word that something is "accessible" is not good enough for me...I want to hear real experiences from real VoiceOver users, and an App Store flag to indicate that the developer has included VoiceOver support--or perhaps checked the box not knowing what VoiceOver even was--will do little to influence my purchasing decisions. All it would take would be one developer who carelessly checked the "Includes VoiceOver Accessibility Support" checkbox for the system to have no value to me.
A slightly more viable solution would be, as you suggested in a later reply, for the app to then be reviewed by Apple for accessibility if the developer indicates VoiceOver support. To do this and make the process efficient, Apple would probably need to incorporate some combonation of accessibility testing tools...certainly not outside their range of available options but also not very likely.
It's not that accessible. Although if you look around, you'll find articles saying it is. Voiceover does not read that much information and the game costs $5.99 or £3.99. Imagine, you see this accessibility category, click on it, click on games and see silver sword. Oh great! A game that sounds awesome and has an awesome description, you think. Sure it's a bit pricey but because it's "accessible" you buy it. Only to find, to your horror, that it's hardly playable. So while the accessibility catigory is a good idea, it's the developers and applevis who need to help us out when deciding weather to buy a game or not. The developers can tick an access box, but not have a clue what it means, or they can go out of there way to look at there app and it's access. Applevis can write reviews, make podcasts and things like that. To end this; I think it's a good idea but Ido think that some devs would just tick the box, having no idea what accessible means.
Yes, I agree with you all!
Yeah, that's true. The silver sword thing happened to me. I heard them talking about it on an article in Touch Arcade, and the devs of that app said it was perfectly playable. They said that if blind people ever have problems, they write about them in the forums and the problem gets fixed. Whatever.
To highlight what people are saying about having the developers identify if their apps are accessible, that is precisely what happens in the Windows App Store. You can filter apps for accessibility and you turn up quite a large number which say that they are accessible. But when you look at the descriptions, reviews and technical details, it's clear that some of the apps are completely inaccessible to screen readers. This, as was stated earlier, almost completely invalidates the filtering because you have to take it on trust from the developer, and Microsoft disclaims any liability in the accuracy of the developers assertions.
The only way this will work is if Apple (and Microsoft) actually have to test and approve the accessibility features. That is much harder than it sounds. The range of apps and the kinds of interactions, testing and benchmarking that would be required would need a full-time team of people doing nothing but this kind of testing. Unless someone could demonstrate that the return would be financially worthwhile, I suspect neither apple nor any other app store provider is likely to do more than fairly basic checklist testing. It would be nice to see all software have to meet some minimum accessibility standard, but since there is no internationally recognised standard for apps that is meaningful, it's hard to see that happening soon.
Of course, this is not a reason to not ask for what is suggested here, and is already present in the Windows App Store. It may be that we just need to manage expectations so that things gradually move in the right direction, rather than changing overnight. What would also be useful is for people to suggest exactly what they mean by "accessible", and how this could be practically tested. Perhaps, rather than leaving it to Apple, an organisation like Applevis could offer to provide a service to Apple in this regard. That is, build on the work done here in using real user experience and reviews, to provide a rating that could be displayed in the App Store and filtered upon. That could be achieved with web services and a suitable number of willing contributors. It'd be nice to see something similar to applevis for Microsoft products too, as the independent attributions can carry more weight than the supplier's own rhetoric.
All parties would benefit from this.
If done correctly, all parties would benefit from this.
Under Family Sharing, Apple can add an entry. Accessability- Voice Over. Apple will then provide guidelines to the developers on what is needed to be VO compliant. All buttons should be labeled, left and right swipe to move next or back, etc. Then in the section where users can ask for a refund, they should add an entry under refund, not accessable and a box where the user can enter the problem they encountered. Apple will provide a refund and either check the compliance or forward it to the developer to resolve. IF Apple continues to get the same complaint, they can discuss the issue with the developer and remove the VO compatibility status as needed.
So how does everyone benefit?
Apple can set the standards and definition of accessable in apps. Other OS apps will then try to match Apple’s scheme.
Developers will have a better understanding of what accessable is and how to become compliant. I am sure plenty of developers would make their apps accessable if they knew how and it would only add a few more steps to make it happen. Their sales may even go up a bit.
The user can purchase an app with confidence. If it works, great. If not, they can get a refund and send feedback to the developer on what needs to be fixed.
Anyway, just my thoughts.
I can offer some firsthand experience of what might happen if you ask developers to simply check a box to indicate that their app is accessible, as we routinely get a taster here on AppleVis.
Most of you won’t see them, because they typically get pulled by us quite quickly. But, we routinely have developers submitting their own apps to this site’s iOS App Directory. Not only do they either miss or choose to ignore the notice at the top of the submission form asking that developers do not submit their own apps, but the description of the app or comments that they enter in the text fields frequently indicate that the choices they make from the options for accessibility and usability ratings are false and misleading. In most cases, the combination of comments and ratings shows that the developer clearly has no idea of what VoiceOver is and why it matters to the users of this site.
So, until Apple can offer some form of automated system for testing and grading the accessibility of apps, I personally think that it’s better to leave things as they are rather than have false and misleading information in the App Store.
I agree that an accessible category will possibly open a can of worms, however, I prefer that Apple have a subset of tools that can analyze the levels of accessibility. Will it be difficult..yes, sure but its certainly possible. Perhaps not today neither next year, but eventually I do think its possible.
I don't think that the system should be automated just yet but to start it should be manually tested to insure full accessibility..
I cannot see Apple ever implementing a manual process for testing and grading app accessibility. The sheer scale of the task would be staggering. There are over 1 million apps in the App Store. How would you ever begin to test each of these and every subsequent update or new app. It could be done with a will, suitable tools, and enough people. But, with developers already complaining at how long the app approval process takes, I suspect that the possibility of this ever happening fails at the first of those requirements.
Hay. I just want to say, please Apple, do this.
I'm kind of ticked off about overtime going to Applevis. There should be a feature that allows you to check wether its good for voiceover users or not. I hope they integrate that in to iOS, because that should be a great feature in iOS9. But they don't have it yet.
Yes, I really recommend that.
Hi Applvis team,
Just curious. When a developer submits an app and it’s not accessable, why is it removed? Wouldn’t it be better that it’s in the app database with comments that it’s not accessable? Wouldn’t the developer and users both benefit from the forum communications?
Wouldn’t a larger app database that includes both accessable and non accessable apps be better than a smaller one only showing accessable apps? If a user searches for an app and does not find it, they can’t tell if it’s because it has not been reviewd or if it’s because it’s not accessable.
I ask because an Applevis team member said apps are posted but subsequently removed.
The App Directory does in fact include both accessible and inaccessible apps, on the basis that both have value to the community and for accessibility advocacy.
The main reason that developers are not permitted to submit their own apps, is that 9 times out of 10 the comments that they make about it’s accessibility are clearly inaccurate and misleading. In nearly all of these cases, the developer is simply seeking to get their app mentioned on as many websites as possible. AppleVis comes to their attention, and they post their app here, typically with no awareness or interest in what VoiceOver/accessibility actually is and why it matters to the users of this website. This may sound harsh, but I am afraid that it is the reality of the situation.
Genuine developers will respect our policy and are invited to either use the forum to alert people to their app (assuming that it is accessible) or have one of their blind beta testers submit it to the site’s App Directory. Once listed, developers are welcome (and in fact positively encouraged) to comment - be that to respond to comments made in the entry or to provide additional information.
Think I read somewhere that NFB and Apple are working on a framework/policy for all apps to be accessible on the Apps Store.. Anyone know anything about this? Or did I dream it up..??
I have an idea. What if, in the reviews, you could specify that you were a visually impaired person and say if the app was accessible or not. Based on those reviews, it could give you a rating out of five stars how accessible the app was. Also, I love the idea of all the apps on the app store being Accessible!
THe thing is that you can't make every single app on the app store accessible. It's just not gonna happen. For some apps, it's not practical. For others, the devs just don't give a damn. And for others still, the devs don't know how to make them accesible.
That is disappointing, but I completely understand your point . I think that the accessability category would be very helpful though, because it would prevent people having to download app after app and have it be inaccessible.
Perhaps in some futuristic time when computer intelligent is able to do such a thing could a category be created? I have tried several games that could be made accessible and have found that after emailing developers you get a general sort of we're look into it response with no intention into looking into it at all. If a developer wants they would check that accessible check box and make some money off of us never mind that it loses its accessible standing. Sadly at the end of the day all a lot of company’s care about is making money. The 99 centse I spent on a EA Life Game which I stupidly did when I should of checked on here I will never see again. Luckily it was just 99 cents and it isn't a big deal. With an accessibility category it could become more wasted money on inaccessible apps. The only way I see this category working right now is if apps got into the ITunes accessible category through AppleVis. Only if the AppleVis team approves the app can it be submitted into the ITunes accessible category.
Although the AppleVis website has a lot of apps in the iOS, Mac and Watch App Directory, sometimes you may just want to go to the App Store and look at a list of accessible apps. In fact, I would prefer an accessibility category and AppleVis. It would be much easier to see a list of accessible apps rather than the ones that are inaccesible ones seen in the Featured Tab.
It would be much better rather than scrolling through hundreds of apps that VoiceOver don't work with.
I agree it would be easier
I realize there are some apps that it is just not truly possible for them to be made accessible. But I feel the developers who have apps that could be made accessible or as accessible as possible who just do not give a damn are the ones who should be punished. If there were a checkbox or category or something I feel it would force developers to pay more attention to accessibility. I just feel like developers should be required to make their app as accessible as possible. It makes me very angry when apps that could be made accessible are not just because the developer does not care. In todays world where Iphones and Android phones and apps are so important developers should not be able to just get away with saying oh we don't care about accessibility and then we are left out. I have wanted my entire life to do something with sports media/journalism. In journalism today, social media is absolutely huge. I am afraid I will be denied for jobs because for example Snapchat is totally inaccessible or the ESPN app is somewhat accessible but Voiceover reads the scores wrong making it very hard for me to check scores with the ESpN app. ESPN is the worldwide leader in sports. The Iphone is too popular for developers to get away with saying oh we don't care about accessibility.
I think that we should really have a category on the app store, and it might be named something like accessible apps, or apps compatible with VoiceOver
Rather than its own category, shouldn't accessibility be a set of flags instead?
Aside from VoiceOver compatible, there are colorblind mode, or high contrast and big fonts for low vision users. And then there are apps that are fully accessible for blind users without the use of VoiceOver. These shouldn't be excluded just because they don't use VoiceOver.
Flags like that would give the most flexibility in searching for games, combined with the classic categories, like puzzle, action, arcade and so on.
The question of verifying these flags remains. Apple already needs close to two weeks to review apps. If they had to review the accessibility as well, it would probably become too costly for them, or take even longer.
On another note - does the Apple store not offer a quick refund? On Android, if you want, you can return the app you just bought within the first two hours. Which means, if you bought an app and it turns out to be not accessible, you can instantly return it.
And on a third note - many games are created with 3rd party engines, such as Unity. Since they are not using native iOS code, they cannot use VoiceOver. They would have to implement their own accessibility from scratch. So asking for all apps to be even remotely VoiceOver compatible will remain a dream I fear.
On the other hand - mobile game developers are looking desperately to find niches that haven't been oversaturated with games yet. Discoverability is a probem for every app developer. This gets worse every year. I would suspect that offering them a whole new market audience by offering these simple accessibility flags would guarantee that a lot of them will jump at the opportunity. That would mean loads more apps and games that are accessible. It will also mean a lot of sub standard games, but that is just part of the deal.
Sometimes, Apple spotlights different types of apps, and they've done this before with accessible ones. Remember folks, we're not Apple's entire user base, and 99.9% of the users aren't really going to care, I'm just going to be completely honest. We're a small market here. I would say, maybe requesting some more spotlights on accessible apps would be a good idea, to raise awareness. But accessibility means different things to different people. This is exactly why the idea of making all apps in the app store accessible will never work. It just isn't practical.
No, accessibility cannot be simply measured through flags. Even with website accessibility with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, although there are automated tools for testing for web accessibility, some human intervention is required. Not all people with disabilities use apps the same way, and what one person perceives to be accessible may be only somewhat accessible by another person with the same disability. We then have other issues of accessibility not just encompassing vision impairment, but also encompassing disabilities of hearing, dexterity and cognition, and the different combinations of these that people may have. This would lead to problems with the flags. An audiogame with no visuals could score 100% for people who are blind, but score 0% for people who are deaf or who have problems with dexterity. In this case, what flag would you choose? This all being said, Apple gives developers tools to check for some accessibility requirements, which could lead to more apps being somewhat accessible.
According to www.appreviewtimes.com, Apple can review apps now in under two days most of the time. To my knowledge, Apple cannot check for accessibility within the review process.
Apple can offer refunds for accessibility, but it is not as simple as Android. We have to file a report in which we state the lack of accessibility as the reason for trying to obtain a refund. Apple has to read this, and they will nearly always give the refund, but it is not as automatic as on Android where no reason has to be provided.
You stated that developers want to try and find another niche of game-players. With some exceptions, many developers marvel that blind people can use the Internet, let alone a touch-screen smartphone. They don't see us as a market; they see us as different--a people who, although we may use iPhones, is still separate from them. They don't realise that accessibility doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars if they don't want it to for most apps.
you are 100% correct, developers don't recognize blind people as a market - at least not yet.
But it's just simply the law of capitalism - if there is money to be made, then someone will step up to the plate.
I am not saying developers will do it "only for the money". That has such a bad stigma to it. Obviously, developers like everybody else, need to eat, pay rent and so on. But game developers usually got into making games in the first place because they love doing it. But money can be a driving force. Like you said, developers just don't know that this market even exists yet.
Of course, it's also a possibility that the market isn't big enough to be financially viable for developers at all.
But if it is,then it is only a matter of time.
Sure, what we need is more public awareness, better marketing opportunities, distribution platforms and so on. Right now, if someone develops a killer app directly targeted at blind people - how would they make blind players aware of it? How could they advertise, in the way that they can advertise to seeing people? There's dozens of forums and smaller websites that try to create directories of apps suitable for the blind (AppleVis has a large one, too). But for it to really take off and slide more into the eye of public awareness, it needs something bigger.
Imagine for example if the Apple Store had its own category for this. Thousands of people would see it and realize "Oh, apparently this is a thing. Blind people use phones, too." Every developer who uploads an app and is picking the category and will see this category among the options.
Just seeing that it's there is all it takes. All over sudden you have thousands of people aware that developing for this category is an option.
I am not saying a category is the way to go. It actually doesn't make sense, since many apps fall into more than one category. But the people at Apple and Google are pretty smart, smarter than me for sure. They would find a way to make it work.
hello all. I really like the idea for the accessibility category, but what if apple requires app developers to make their apps accessible before submitting them on the app store? I think it will be great. this is just my opinion of course.
What if apple could put a link to apple vis when an entry is already here? Thiswould be a start to humbles suggestion then apple could randomly test apps for accesibility. If the dev claims arent true apple could remove dev from store until the app is brought into line with the access rating we would also need to report other apps for false ratings. Other groups could do the same if apps werent compliant with claims for other disabilites the first thing apple would have to make access alarger part of developement.no mattter how dev approached programming
Its humble24 here! I'm happy of the great response. How do you guys feel about signing a petition to try to push for a category or at least a way to sort and recognize apps that do develop accessible apps. Its a start and any start or step is better than no baby steps at all!
Lets ask for more than we think we will settle for Then we have somewhere to go Alsolets ask them to do the same for the other access features When it comes downi to it all we want is the abilty to make informed consumer choices We are asking for is specifs for a built software.
I wish they make a cool app game is cards duel or fight or what in the future
I'd love to see Apple calling out apps that are accessible, however, I think Apple have probably thought about this but backed off. The problem I can foresee is how you can say an app is more accessible than another or begin to categorise the level of accessibility.
For example, Weather Gods has great voiceover support but NO support for dynamic type and accessible font sizes.
Maybe a separate section (tab) where they list the supported accessibility features. I think this would be useful?
If you hang out on Applevis long enough, you'll always know about the latest accessible apps available, and you'll even get podcasts to demonstrate some of them. In a perfect world, Apple would have a portion of the appstore to show off accessible games for blind folks, but as I mentioned in an earlier post in the thread, that's great, but only for the people who really have an interest. Your average joe looking in the app store isn't gonna really be effected by, or even interested in an accessible app category. To these folks, it's got more of a wow factor. As in "wow, it's great that they have apps that help you guys. But for most folks, it really doesn't effect them, unless they have a family member that has a disability.