Do you @Fleksy and AppleVis Users remember June 12, 2012?

That was the day when the Fleksy people had come to us to help them out to test and refine their keyboard, which was supposedly and specifically mentioned that the keyboard was designed for the blind iPhone users. Do you guys also remember that on the initial released the price was $15 for the reason that the blind community was a small market? We all had mixed opinion about it, but it seemed that most of us supported them to stay them on float, right?

Now, let us fast forward it to 2014 when on iOS 8, Apple has opened the keyboard's OS to the developers. Most of us were excited about it because we could finally use Fleksy across the entire OS. However, this excitement did not last that long, and it turned into frustrations because we could hardly use the Fleksy keyboard anymore. When you look at the Fleksy app directory entry here in Applevis, you will see that the comment thread went from intensive excitement down to horrible frustrations.

I'm sincerely wondering what happen to the Fleksy team dedications for the blind community. They used to be very accomodating and responsived to the inquiry and comment of the blind community. I guesss the time has changed since June 12, 2012. We are no longer the priority. Instead of beta tester, we are now just bunch of experimental blind rats inside the Fleksy laboratory, which they had tested their product before selling their productx to the sighted humans.

The following texts are from Ioannis, one of the Fleksy developers, post on june 12, 2012:

We have developed a new typing technology for blind users of iPhone devices. We think this will a leap forward in iOS accessibility and will let blind users type a lot quicker and easier than the built in keyboard. This is the website: http://www.fleksy.com/ We are looking for beta testers to help us refine our technology ahead of its public launch. We would really appreciate your feedback. Would you be interested to participate? Please email me at contact@syntellia.com and I will send you instructions to download a free version. Thank you in advance.

End of post, and here is the direct link for that.

Enclosing: Personally, I'm very angry about this situation. At this point, i don't care about the Fleksy keyboard anymore, regardless, if it becomes accessible again or not. Even this keyboard is the last available keyboard in the world. I would rather not to use any computing device than using a product from this type of people. I would suggest to you guys to leave a review on the Appstore itself, so maybe to those of you who still want to use this keyboard, They will take you seriously.

Forum: 

#1 It really is a shame

I was one of the first to try out fleksy when I was given a code. I even made a small app demo and uploaded the recording to drop box and tweeted the link on twitter, because I was trying to encourage other blind users to jump on the bandwagon and get this app. I was impressed with the quality of the app and how well it was working, and if I had the money that month, I would have gladly paid the price. Several months after that, fleksy became a free product after several blind users put money into this project in order to ensure that it would succeed. We were even more excited to here that it could be workable on android devices. Last year, a fleksy version was released that wasn't accessible to voiceover users, so they had to release a second version to keep the blind customers satisfied. I suppose that was done so that no one would make a big deal over social media and put their reputation at risk. I would hope that wasn't the intention of all the developers, because I still think the concept of fleksy is a brilliant idea, but things have certainly gone down hill from there for us voice over users. Now, they are making it big in the third party keyboard market, again, being highly supported in the beginning by blind customers wanting desperately to make fleksy a system wide typing option... but this is not the case. Last time I used the fleksy app, I had difficulties using it, couldn't clear the text I had written unless I deleted it one word at a time, and I remember it never used to be like that. We were encouraged both in the app and over social media to leave Apple feedback to make fleksy a system-wide keyboard, and now that is now a reality, with an outcome none of us really expected. I hope that Fleksy can be improved so that the ones who first helped fleksy get on its feet can begin to use it the way it was intended to be used for. As I said before, it really is a shame this had to happen. Let's hope this isn't the end for Fleksy in the blind community.

#2 A shame but...

... prefering not to use a computing device instead of having to deal with FLEKSY is overreach in my opinion. I just got an iphone late this year and only know FLEKSY in it's current state and yes there is massive room for improvement. The real problem however lies in lack of communication. As far as I have read the developers are not really engaging in conversations regarding the blind community. If that could change again and would lead for the app to be accessible again or even a fork of the app for VO-users would be awesome. And yes I'd pay for such a version.
At the end though that shouldn't be required because accessibility hadn't had to break in the first place. I fully understand the frustration of some users but being so absolute with some statements doesn't help the case and will in my opinion not bring the dialog in the right direction.

#3 To Dennnis

The lack of communitcation between blind community and the Fleksy developers was not an issue when Fleksy wasn't well-known on the main stream market. However, things have changed when the main stream market started to recognize the keyboard. In my observation, The fleksy developers have gradually become less and less accomodating to the feed back of the blind users. You can look at the comment tread of the app directory; on the early days of Fleksy, the developers are always on top of every comment of the AppleVis users. You can also look at the Fleksy Twitter timeline; They don't response to them anymore. Again, in the early days, they answer every inquirty and feed back that they got.

Lastly, you may call my last statement "overreach," but In my book, I would rather to have nothing than be a user or follower of developers who have no gratitude to the community that helps them out to get where they are right now.

#4 I understand your point

I understand your point completely. And it clearly sucks that the developers of flex don't respond to posts regarding accessibility. It feels like the blind community is just left out in the cold once a bigger market is found. As I stated before that in itself is a shame!
In my opinion there are only two ways to deal with this situation that make sense. The first is to try to engage with the developers in a polite manner and keep nagging them about accessibility. And also post comments under the reviews on other web pages reviewing the app to bring that matter more into the main stream. The other way to deal with this and similar problems would be to just ignore those apps which doesn't solve anything. I think being rood about those issues could potentially hurt the blind community more than it helps. But then again maybe I'm just overthinking the issue here.

#5 Another way of looking at it

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

I take on board what you say Musicruz, but a relationship goes two ways. When the Fleksy team were trying to develop and expand the app, they began to run into technical problems with the support for VoiceOver. So they put time and resources into a second app called Fleksy VO to make sure we were still supported while they work out the issues with the original app. And how did the community react? It threw it back in their face, which one of them said the team found very demoralising.
The current keyboard extension is reasonably useable last time I checked, but not enough for me at least. Perhaps another Fleksy VO would work well, but they're hardly going to go down that road again.
Personally I would assume they still want to be VoiceOver friendly, I hope they'll get it right anyway. Time will tell I guess.
I also kinda think it might be time to get over the $15 thing. It was over two years ago. At the time it was both niche and worked very well. Pricing just goes that way sometimes. I still think the price of three beers was worth it, though I of course wish I was still getting the value for it.
Hope I haven't upset anyone, I just find some of the criticism a bit over the top.
Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays!
Dave

#6 Thoughts

Dave:

I wasn't following the Fleksy debate (Fleksy VO vs. the regular Fleksy) when Fleksy VO was released. I thought it was *great* and took the developers at their word when they said it would be supported "forever". Yes, it's too bad they got criticized in this forum. But if they thought Fleksy VO was a good idea, at least in the interim, they shouldn't have given a crap what people said on here about how the app should be developed and shouldn't have been so thin-skinned. It's as if they expected us to be *grateful* rather than putting the appp out, fulfilling their promises and just saying "if ya don't like it, ya don't gotta use it!".

I truly think that we have been exploited. I'm not asking much. All I want is for Fleksy VO to be supported and put back in the App Store. I, for one, don't give a rat's posterior about having third-party keyboard support; I thought it a bad idea to begin with. I was in the minority. but I'd rather have a functioning Fleksy with minimal frills than all the nonsense currently going on.

To recap, the developers should have just looked at the downloads of Fleksy VO and realized that some of us thought it superb. That should have been enough IMO.

But then I'm still on iOS 7.1.2 and will continue to be until Appple decides that some of us (blind or sighted) abhor sloppy programming and are double-plus uninterested in bling but would rather have functioning devices.

Cheers!

#7 I feel bad about not wanting a separate app

I was one who at the time did not want a separate app. How naive I was. I do feel we shot ourselves in the foot by pitching a fit over Fleksy VO and I wish I could go back in time and sit on my hands.

#8 What angers me the most is

What angers me the most is when flecks first launch with IOS eight the excuse was Apple didn't do something correctly with the keyboards. Apple fix that but Fleksy still in my opinion does not work well enough to be usable on a daily basis. Honestly I paid $15 as well I got good use out of it so I'm not angry about the money I just wish it was workable you know when I wanted to text somebody it would just work.

#9 going back on their word

After listening to a podcast with the developer of Fleksy,, he had in fact said that work will continue on flecks and VO support. At the time, it was to respond to the inquiry behind breaking up Fleksy into two different apps. At the time, neither myself or others I would imagine would think the work the developer was referring to was on a version of the app for the sighted, and catering to the sighted with little to no focus on VO users. I for one am also quite disappointed that an app developer who claimed to want to include voiceover users, and make our lives easier has done a 360, and doesn't even care one bit about VO with respect to the current release of Fleksy. Admittedly, I've not tried Fleksy on IOS 8 due to ongoing complaints about its functionality, but it really seems like they just don't care about the Very community that supported their efforts at the beginning.

#10 Fleksy VO

I wasn't an iPhone user when Fleksy originally started. But I was here to watch the ridiculous reaction of several members here when Fleksy VO was released. Personally, I appreciated that app, and I know there were a few others who felt the same way. But the response from a large percentage of the blind community was embarrassing, to say the least, and it wouldn't surprise me if that reaction has left them less willing to work with us.

#11 Agreed.

Agreed.
The comunity should know that reacting with anger like they just did could not bring anything good at all.

In fact, many developpers who have done less than what the flexy did for accessibility did not get half of the angriness and embarassment the flexy team got when they went ahead and solve the problem. Some solve the problem the right way (good), some solve the problem using an alternative way (reazonable) and some of them just do not care.
Reacting the way the comunity reacted teached them that it would be better not to care the next time. I am not talking on behalf of them but I would probably think this way or something alike after all complaining and such.

Put pressure? Yes, of corse. I am all for this but in a strong, organized way. This would show them that the comunity wanted the accessibility back. The way it was done only show them how a comunity can be so umpolite.

But again ....... the apis are opened so anyone can go and write an accessible keyboard.

I think that flexy will at some day be accessible again, but will not blame the devs for not responding to the comunity: when they have tried to find a solution to the inaccessibility issue they only got rudness and stones thrown by the comunity. This is not something one would want for their selves again.

#12 I'm with you Brooke

As Brooke and a few others have said, I think this result shouldn't be such a surprise. I don't blame the developers for staying out of this fray, and I really can't blame them for moving away from this market.

The crap they took in the past was embarrassing. The reaction to the app split alone would have driven even the most gracious and supportive developer away.

I'm not suggesting they are, or were, above criticism. But to under estimate the role the community played is naive.

#13 I can't help but agree with Brooke and others

I saw some of the comments both here and on social media, and they were ugly, and mean-spirited to say the very least. No wonder they don't want to have anything to do with us as a community. If I heard some of those awful things, I'd go the other way too. Sadly, I think their interaction with the blindness community is pretty much over. But if it isn't, please lets be kind to them, it could pay dividends in the end.

#14 Everyone Plays a Part

I don’t use Fleksy...predictive typing apps have just never appealed to me...so I’m looking at this from the standpoint of an interested spectator.

It’s sad to see where Fleksy has gone. It’s sad to see the reactions of some community members in regards to Fleksy VO. It’s sad to see that the Fleksy Team was so “demotivated” by the valid criticisms and concerns about Fleksy that they pulled Fleksy VO from the App Store and have vowed never to attempt such an effort again. And it’s also sad that we’ve now resorted to blaming each other for Fleksy’s reduced accessibility when, in all honesty, we have no control over it whatsoever.

I honestly don’t think the Fleksy Team intended to offend blind users by releasing Fleksy VO. Is it reasonable to expect them to know, for example, that there is a long history in the blind community of companies releasing “screen reader friendly” versions of their websites instead of making them universally accessible?

As much as I think the Fleksy Team had good intentions, I also can’t really blame people for getting upset with the release of a separate app for VoiceOver users. Good intentions don’t make separate equal, and I’m uncomfortable with the idea that we “should just be grateful we have accessibility at all” because this leads us to settle for mediocrity. I appreciate the developers who go above and beyond to create great and accessible apps, but there is a difference between being appreciative of developers’ efforts and being “just glad we have it at all.”

Lastly, I think removing Fleksy VO from the App Store was a mistake. It’s unfortunate that the Fleksy team felt demotivated by some of the responses to Fleksy VO. I think a lot of this, again, comes from the long history of companies creating “separate” experiences for blind users, and partly with how it was presented. I contend that they probably didn’t know any better. That said…If people want to use Fleksy VO, they should have that option. To take it away, just because of a few hurtful comments and probably many more constructive ones, just seems spiteful to me.

#15 agreed

I completely agree with the above comment. I also believe that the response from the blind community wouldn't have been as strong if Fleksy wasn't targeted towards VO users originally. As I recall, Fleksy was specifically designed for VO users and the fact that they have taken such a strong departure from that really angered the community and rightfully so in my opinion. Although this is comparing apples to oranges in a sense, but this is equivalent to Freedom scientific ditching jaws and focusing their efforts on Magic, thereby refocusing on low vision instead of the blind. We as voiceover users put up with a lot, and when app developers go against what they said publicly, it really creates anger. Although the community shouldn't have reacted as strongly, I believe the the Fleksy developers have only themselves to blame.

#16 I agree

As I said before, it is definitely a shame that this had to happen, but sadly, the reaction to the fleksy vo app just proved to show that history repeats itself. I wasn't thrilled with the change to a second app, but if they were willing to work with us and release a fleksy vo app then I was ok with it. Then, the apps were finally combined again, and it worked wonderfully for a while, but that time when people were upset over the change is just as bad as jaws vs. window-eyes, Mac Vs. Windows, or IPhone vs Android debates and bashing over social media and forums such as these. When things change for customers of a service and people are unhappy, what matters is how the situation is handled. Humans are ready to react, but the reaction to certain changes could not be more vollitle than on this forum at times. People are so ready to bite the hands that feed them, when there are other kinder, gentler ways to handle a situation diplomatically. With that said, Fleksy isn't the only one to take criticism from the blind community, and let's face it, it happens around us whether we realize it or not. I was in a best buy store not too long ago, when someone was trying to get an IPhone activated. Something went wrong with his payment process with his best buy credit card, and he lashed out at the cashier and technition helping set his phone up. He called him such horrible, degrading names, but did that stop the cashier from working and doing his job? No, and it's not just because he's getting paid to do it, but rather people are serving other people and love doing what they do. I'm not saying that Fleksy developers should just take what's dished out to them. If the bashing didn't get out of control last year, we wouldn't be having this conversation. I do, howevere think as a developer bringing a product to the open market, there will be both good and bad reviews, and it's important to still keep providing the service/product to the customers who are still in support of it, regardless of horrible actions and words of other people. Sadly, some humans, and I'm not pointing fingers at anyone, because this happens with all humans, sometimes don't know how to handle their anger. I've been known to lash out at customer support technitions on the phone when I have to repeat things 10 times for them to fully understand my setup so they can help me better, and I appologize for my words, but that didn't stop the technition from doing their job. I think there needs to be a compromise. We need to analyze the decisions the fleksy team makes and learn to try and support it, as well as offering suggestions in a kind, diplomatic manner in order for them to see the other side of the coin and discuss this in a civil manner. In turn, they should also be willing to work with us and understand both sides. If a decision has to be made that is not in favor of the blind community, either sending a kind email with honest suggestions, or just disappearing quiently from the fleksy user community will suffice if you don't approve of the changes. I may not understand why fleksy did what they did, but I do not judge them. They made a decision that will better help the app, but I also believe that they shouldn't abandon the blind community altogether. There's both good and bad things that happen when we join the technology market, but fleksy can't please everyone. The main thing is for all of us to realize that, including fleksy developers, and work together to make an incredible app that can be used by all.

#17 Think of this from the developers perspective

I think what a lot of people don't realize is that an app like Fleksy takes a very long time to develop. Lots and lots of things go into this i.e. getting an idea of what the app looks like visually, actually building the app, beta testing it, working out bugs with several beta builds and finally, submitting the app for Apple's approval. All this takes time. Now if you had done all that, and no matter what you did, if people said all those terrible things, wouldn't you walk away too? No wonder the Fleksy folks don't take our concerns seriously...with the blind folks, their damned if they do, and damned if they don't. I'm sorry if that comes out a bit harsh, but it's true. Obviously, they had a vision for what they wanted the app to do, so to help the situation they created fleksy VO. It wasn't the ideal thing, but it did work at the time. Next time something doesn't work, I think it is very important to work with the developers of an app, not against them, and with Fleksy, that's exactly what happened. It's sad because you have good people who are ready willing and able to make Fleksy the very best it can be, but the negative comments, and trust me there were some real doozies, are keeping the Fleksy team from taking our requests seriously. They figure it'll be the same situation all over again.

#18 Why bother?

Why bother? It’s obvious the developer no longer wants to work with the blind community.

After all, they came asking for assistance and in return, promised to support the blind community. The users paid for it, provided assistance and promoted the app. The users made it what it is today.

They came out with a version that didn’t work properly and some users voiced their frustration. Instead of acknowledging the problems, they pulled the app, stopped what they promised and left. Huh? What kind of business practice is that? It shows immaturity and lack of understanding how business works.

If a developer is really good and is concerned about it’s users, take all the negatives and do something about it. Imagine if all the businesses did the same thing. Imagine if Apple said oh forget about the blind community. All they do is whine about VO.

I for one would never buy anything from this developer. Even if it’s free, I would not use or endorse it. He demonstrated his lack of care or support and promises means nothing to him.

I know it sounds harsh. I know developing and supporting an app is not easy. But if you make promises, keep it. It’s what separates a good app from a bad app developer.