Journalist seeking discussion re: Apple's accessibility design

Other Apple Chat

Hi all,

I wasn't sure which forum to post in; hope this one's alright.

I'm a radio producer working on a story for WNYC's New Tech City about if, how, and why Apple has done a superlative job building accessibility into iOS. I've been interviewing several teachers and students at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Austin, TX. They love their iOS products there and having nothing but the highest praise.

I wonder if this is true universally—elsewhere in America, elsewhere in the world? I'd love to speak with anyone willing to discuss the subject. I'd also love to find the founder or some long-term moderators of this website, as I think you may have a valuable perspective to add to my story. I'll also be reaching out to Apple to try and learn how and why they gave such emphasis to accessibility issues when first designing the iPhone. Any insight on this topic would be much appreciated as well.

Thanks very much for your time,
Ryan Kailath



Submitted by KE7ZUM on Monday, September 15, 2014

One correction. Accessibility came with the iphone 3gs and higher The voice over screen reader was not in the earlier iphone models in 2007. It came in I believe 2009. I don't have his eail but contact Mark Mauer of the national federation of the blind as he will have the back story of what happened and why voice over was built in to ios3 and higher.

Good luck on your project I'd love to participate but i"m out of the country right now. Maybe when I come back. Feel free to contact me at my applevis contact form.

Take care and happy sunday.

Submitted by Vash Rein on Monday, September 15, 2014

So voiceover changed the life of many people. The reason being was that many were worried about how they could ever use a touch screen. Apple's introduction of voiceover on the IPhone 3gs helped to create a sense of being part of the future.

The reality is that Apple's push for accessibility has not been matched though. Many of the other mobile phone manufacturers. Android only has a fraction of the accessibility Apple has pushed and Windows has no accessibility for blind at all (could be wrong).
The most important factor of Apple's accessibility is that it is continually being updated and upgraded along with the various versions of IOS that are released.
So, it is changing with the times.
Some would argue that there are a few bugs that plague IOS voiceover users and Apple is not quick enough to fix these bugs. However, the fact that individuals can directly communicate with Apple regarding these bugs and a resolution eventually coming says a lot about how far Apple might be willing to go; Also, how far we have been able to go as a blind community always fighting for accessibility.

Submitted by splyt on Monday, September 15, 2014

I can give you a overview in south america, specially in Brazil about how Apple stuff is behaving and changing the way blind deal with tech stuff.

It's not as good as some stat nor it is as bad as others say. After all, it is the very best option we have but uits not afordable by everyone and Android is eventually catching it up in some years. Being more afordable, I think Android will be the game changer but not now because it is too limited at the moment.

If you need to contact me just drop a note to marlon dot bsousa ad gmail dot com (change literals to match accordingly) or do use the contact form.

Submitted by sockhopsinger on Monday, September 15, 2014

The thing that I admire most about Apple (whether it be the iPhone, iPad, Mac, or AppleTV), is that a blind person can walk into an Apple store, purchase an Apple device, take it home, open the box, turn it on, and ... VOILA! Instant accessibility out of the box. To my knowledge, no other company has that instant accessibility. Tip your cap to Apple.

Submitted by Tree on Monday, September 15, 2014

Apple is amazing, but its not perfect and there are some serious issues it needs to address. I work for the emerging technology and accessibility office of a university and we face some difficult situations thanks to Apple. I would be happy to go more into this if anyone is interested.

Submitted by Diego Garibay on Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I currently go to college and I would like to know what situations these are. Just in case my college starts using Apple products or something.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I use apple products in my college and ther's no issues. Maybe it's the way yoru department is implemening the technology as they can if they so chose wiht profiles disable stuff like voice over. I've done a bit of that over the years.

Submitted by Thom on Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hi Ryan,

Very happy to see that the mainstream media is starting to see the amazing work by apple with there accessible products.

I am from Australia and the effect on the blind community especially the younger generation is profound.

The rise of smart phones has changed the way everyone access information or services, connecting people to the world while on the go. To the blind person this is even more profound as technology is a window to the world that we would otherwise not see. Add that the iphone includes dozens of apps that replace extremely expensive specialized devices for the blind, such as gps's, note takers and document reading devices it has quickly become an essential tool for the blind.

Some people here may say its not perfect, or that apple need to improve there game, my opinion is that apple has started a wave of new technology that has spread to all the major tech giants, this wave will constantly improve and further connect the blind to the world.

The iphone introduced me the world of podcast and I have to say I am a big fan of WNYC, radio lab freak-a-nomics and your program are among my favorites. Apple also help bring podcast to the masses bringing amazing highly produced content created just for the ears, perfect for the blind.


IF you have any questions email me at morgtom @ hotmail com

Submitted by Mike Freeman on Saturday, September 27, 2014


I have and use an an iPhone 5 and enjoy it thoroughly. However, I am seemingly among the minority who do not believe that Apple devices have "opened new worlds for the blind", at least not exclusively. They have opened up new ways of doing things faster and cheaper -- but for everyone, blind and sighted alike. The thing that's different for us, the blind, as a previous poster has said, is that we didn't have access to smartphones -- at least not like we have now -- and specialized devices for the blind were and often are expensive, if only because we, the blind, are a minority.

And while Apple has taken accessibility for the blind more seriously than perhaps other smartphone manufacturers have and Steve Jobs believed in accessibility, it was and is not all altruism on Apple's part. the firm wanted to sell computers and educational products to educational institutions in Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Attorney General warned Apple that if it wished to do so, it was going to have to make a far more serious commitment to accessibility than was heretofore the case and pay attention to representations from disability groups such as the National Federation of the Blind which had sent a demand letter to Apple saying that something should be done to make iTunes U accessible.

This isn't a put-down of Apple; it's just a plea that we not worship the company.

That said, I'd have a hard time if my iPhone 5 went kaput! for better or worse, we've become dependent upon the technology. (grin)

Submitted by Vash Rein on Sunday, September 28, 2014

In some ways, our accessib ility is a doubled edged sword. In one way, Accessibility and the ability to have a phone or device that is relatively very accessible is wonderful. One the other hand, there are bugs that don't always get fixed (the engineers aren't aware, don't know how to fix, etc.) and it can take years to get them fixed. All the while, new bugs pop up.

IOS 8 is actually pretty buggy at this point. And though it is still very usable, some of these bugs are very inconvenient, requiring more effort to work with the devices.

hi everyone, I have worked with Ryan on this, he came and interviewed me here at my house, and we even took a walk, and I showed him blind square and google maps, as well as looktel money reader. I'm happy that the iPhone is finally getting some main stream media attention aside from it has voiceover, and blind people use voiceover to access the phone. I'm looking forward to hearing this podcast.

Submitted by Ekaj on Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hi Ryan and all. Ryan, I am a first-time Mac user and I thought I'd chime in here. I have a Mac Book Air, which I got as a belated Christmas present last year. I was actually at the Apple store with my parents when we made the purchase. First off, I'd like to say that the guys who assisted us were great. They let me try the Mac I have now before actually purchasing it, which I thought was very nice. My mom and I came back to that same store just after New Year's Day for a training session, and the trainer was quite good. He patiently answered all our questions, and did not shy away from looking up things which he wasn't sure of. I'm not sure about all Apple's store locations, but this one gets high marks in my books both for the salespeople and the training. Even if the training is relatively basic, they are doing a great job. So what about my Mac itself? Well, I'm very impressed with it thus far. The fact that someone can just start up a Mac and turn on accessibility features straight away is tremendous. I think I'm also becoming a fan of Tim Cook, the current CEO of Apple. I was very happy with the way he responded to a question about Apple's ROI. Not that Steve Jobbs didn't do a good job, but I only got my Mac at the end of last year and Tim Cook had already been chosen to succeed Steve Jobbs.

Submitted by Thom on Sunday, September 28, 2014

It amazes me how far we have come in such a short period of time.

For those who could afford spending $10k+ on adaptive technology then the iPhone is probably not a big deal, again for thoes who don't live an independent active lifestyle probably wont see the benefits either.

Accessible GPS - $2000+
Notetaker - $5000
mobile document reader - $3000
money reader - $800
Accessible mp3 player - $500
Accessible mobile phone (software) - $500

The iPhone really does it all.

I have to say its a shame so many here are so concerned about the bugs in IOS, its an unfair double standard considering how bad some blind products are. The bugs in IOS are annoying, but don't change the fact that apple have invested more into adaptive technology than any other mainstream business and are continuing to do so.

Submitted by Ken Downey on Sunday, September 28, 2014

I really don't know how I survived without my iPhone all these years… I think I almost went mad because of the things I couldn't do that everybody else was doing around me. Now, I can use it to plan routes, read the screen on my digital keyboard, listen to podcasts, identify money, listen to talking books, and even use it to synthesize new sounds and types of music. The skies the limit as far as the iPhones go! Now, I'm doing all this on a for ass. Someday soon, I hope to get a six, and then I'll build to do all the same things but even better The phone even has apps that allow you to type in contracted grade 2 braille! How's that for innovation! The only thing that this iPhone can't do is drive a car… Yet! If you'd like to talk, you can reach me on Skype. My username is KenWDowney.

Submitted by Andy B. on Monday, September 29, 2014

It is completely unfair to Apple and its users to isolate them from all other tech giants, and then bash them because they have bugs in their operating systems, accessibility is not completely realized yet, or Apple sometimes takes a backseat with accessibility. Furthermore, it is unfair to everyone else to claim that Apple is superior in accessibility. In some ways they are. However, in other areas (most areas), they aren't. We should include everyone else in the picture; Freedom Scientific, Microsoft, Apple, GW Micro, the Gnome Foundation, and others not mentioned. All of them have contributed large amounts of time and money into accessibility. The key difference is how. Apple creates their own screen reader, Microsoft includes accessibility hooks in their software, Freedom Scientific makes Windows-based products that take advantage of those hooks, GW Micro does the same thing as FS, the Orca sub project of Gnome is an accountability check for the main Gnome developers. In the mean time, the Orca group creates their own screen reader to comply with Gnome's accessibility hooks. All of these projects and companies are valuable and superior in their own way.

ò There is a long ways to go, but Orca made *nix accessible. Without that, system administrators would not have a job.
• FS makes Windows the most accessible operating system to date because they are a 3rd party screen reader and can spend the time and money.
• Apple created the one and only accessible mainstrain cellphone out of the box. Users can do anything they want without having to pay $500+ for accessibility.
• MAC has the same concept as IPhone, but VO could use large amounts of love.

The main point: Apple is not our accessibility god, it should not be worshipped, and consider everyone else to see how Apple fits into the technology world.

Submitted by Santiago on Monday, September 29, 2014

I recently sold my iPhone on eBay, and I'm about to order the iPhone 6 plus. So far, I'm really not sure how I could of gone with out an iPhone before I bought my first one. I'm able to do a lot of things I wasn't able to do before the iPhone, like taking pictures, knowing exactly where I am when walking, etc. I've realized I now depend on it for quite a few of my daily tasks.