My thoughts about Apple and accessibility

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It seams like every time a new IOS or Mac OS update comes out or is coming up, some people will talk about the lack of certain VoiceOver features as compared to other operating platforms or all the Voice Over bugs that haven't been fixed. Inevitably, someone will say something like "It's clear that Apple just doesn't care about its blind customers". I truly don't understand this attitude.

I do understand frustration at long standing VO bugs not being fixed. There are some that frustrate me quite a bit. But, from my prospective, that's just part of working with technology and the same thing happens with the competition.

I'll give you one example. I was a PC user, using JAWS and WindowEyes, for 20 years before switching to the Mac in 2016. I can think of one big bug in particular, having to do with Jaws and editing formulas in Excel, which I experienced for many years, on many machines, with many different versions of Excel and Windows and Jaws. I began reporting this bug in 2002 and I reported it multiple times. The bug was acknowledged and I was told that they were working on a solution. As of 2016, when I switched to the Mac, it had still not been fixed.

I'm not saying that Jaws was or is a bad screen reader. It served my needs quite well for a very long time. I'm also not saying that Apple never mishandles things. There are long standing bugs concerning the editing of text in IOS and the continued existence of those bugs is ridiculous. However, it simply isn't true that the other operating platforms out there always get it right with regard to accessibility.

I'm sure that one thing that makes Voice Over bugs get fixed more slowly than bugs that effect main stream users is simply the numbers. In some sort of utopia, that wouldn't be the case but there are business realities here that can't be ignored. I don't know the numbers but I suspect that VoiceOver is used by far fewer than 1 in a thousand users. It also isn't inexpensive to develop and maintain. I suspect that Apple looses money on it. That being the case, we can't expect VO bugs to receive the same attention as those that effect mainstream users.

In my experience, Mac OS is a much more stable operating system than Windows and Voice Over is a much more stable screen reader than the competition. I don't at all regret switching. I began waiting into the Apple ecosystem 8 years ago with a iPod Touch. Now, in my house, there are 2 Macs, 5 iPhones, 3 iPod touches, 2 iPads, 3 apple TVs, and a AppleWatch. And I can pick up any one of them and use them without installing any software or making any sort of modification or doing any special set-up. That's pretty helpful when your 6 year old needs you to help him to find the show he wants to watch and then your 16 year old needs you to help him troubleshoot his phone. And that's something you don't get with any other company in the tech industry. I like it, I appreciate it, and they're going to have to do something worse than they have been doing to get me to jump ship.



Submitted by Justin on Friday, June 7, 2019

Well written, scott. This is my view as well. I've been a mac user since mid 2010 and don't regret it one bit. I too was a long time windows and window-eyes user, and too know the frustration with windows. Yes, the mac is not perfect to all the people that say it's terrible or is unusable with VO, we need to find work arounds to make it work. That's the case with everything. I think some people just need to move on, accept that it isn't perfect, and just keep swimming forward, lol. I've been in the mac ecosystem since OS 10 Snow leopard on my machines and have seen it all, so we all know there's issues. But, none of them are dealbreakers in my book.

Submitted by roman on Friday, June 7, 2019

Hello everyone! I am a window's user, but I use Iphone six-es. I used to use android devise. I swiched to IOS seence 2018, and it is so better for me. I am not going to say that android is so bad, but it is not sufisiont for me.

Submitted by Maldalain on Friday, June 7, 2019

Well, I may accept that Apple does care about accessibility, still one sure thing it is not really concerned about accessibility as before. Further, it is so ridiculous that new bugs are introduced with each release of Apple operating systems across devices with accessibility features, and interestingly enough these bugs are far more than squashed ones existed in previous releases. I may list a very long list of bugs with VO on iOS and MacOS, these bugs have been reported to Apple as early as iOS 9 release.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Friday, June 7, 2019

To each their own. I used windows since W 95 and currently using windows 10 and with jaws 2019. At lease with jaws they come up with updates and bugs fixes quickly. I do like my iPhone and if we are paying for it, we can talk about issues and bugs. I know that some of the people in applevis also made many complaints about apple not fixing bugs and not listening to us. Now that apple made comments on the new features in voiceover and more accessibilityI will wait to see what happens with what I am going to call lucky iOS 13 regarding accessibility.

Submitted by Fatima.Hamoud10 on Friday, June 7, 2019

I am also looking forward to the new accessibility features in iOS 13. I actually haven't discovered any bugs on my iPhone 5S, iPhone SE, iPad Mini 4 and iPod Touch (6th generation) LOL. I am also looking forward to buying the iPod Touch (7th generation) since the iPod Touch (6th generation) will not run iOS 13 anyway:)

Submitted by Ekaj on Friday, June 7, 2019

Hi. I don't have a lot of time right now so I'll be brief, but I totally agree with you Scott and thanks for writing in. That's more or less why I got a Mac for Christmas in 2013, and I'm so glad I did. I was very skeptical at first when my parents approached me about switching platforms though. But I now have an iPhone in addition to my MacBook Air. I strictly use VoiceOver and Siri, and I think Apple has done a fantastic job with both. Furthermore, they are to be forever commended for including all their accessibility options right in the devices. That's all for now, but thank you Apple!

Submitted by María on Friday, June 7, 2019

HI Scot and all,
I really liked your message, i compeltelly agree, and so, you encouraged me to talk about my experience with "apple wolrd". When Apple was bornt, and in paticualr, when Iphone bornt, I rememberd that I hated it, and I said that i "never would have an apple device", I hated, perhpas because I didn't understad, how a full blind people like me, could manage with success a touch device. At that time, I had a Nokia 6600 and I didn't want to know about touch telephone. Afterwards, I bought another telefphones with Keyboard, but I noticed that other blind firends who had an Iphone could do things that I couldn't with my "keyboard telephone", so last year, at Easter, as the telephone which I had (an LG Win Smart) started to do strange things, I decided, at the end, buy an Iphone. I was really frightened, I was not sure if I would be able to use it, and because of this ,I bough an SE. I had only a lection in an Apple Magazine and, the next day, I would be abel to use whats app and everythig, From this year until now, I can say that Iphone changed really my life, and because of this I would like to register potcast in my language, ty help people as potcast helped me too. But my experience doesn't finish there. As I was really so happy with my Iphone, some months later (in summer last year) I started to think about a Mac. I was frightened too, beause some people told that a lot of people had tasted Mac and they were come back to windows, and as I never leanrt Jaws really well (I use only the basic things taht I need for my j job) I was frightened. At the same time, I started having a lot of problems with my Windows 10 and so, one day, in spetember last year, I ecided to buy a Mac. OH, it was the best thing that I did. A had the best teacher who was possible, and I leanrt really very veyr well, good, ad I never leanrt Jaws in my life. I think taht voice Over. is much better as Jwqs. for me is more confortable, faster, and so, I'm really happy, and it's really a pitty that in the office, I have to use Windows still. My next steep?, it will be Apple Watch. I didn't buy still, because it is not a need, but only something that I would like having, but, in the futer, I'm sure that I will do it. So, of course, I really thanks Apple, for everytig, and always. And of course, the best thing for me?, the Braille virtual Keyboard, it's really great, and for me the most imporant thing!. And a little last question. I left my english studies a lot of years ago (when I finished the school and I started UNiversity), and I didn't want to study more english because at school, unfortunatelly, I lhad very bad teachers, and earnt really very bad. HOwever, when i started using my iphone, I descovered Applevis and other potcast about Apple in english, all really very interesting, and I noticed that although I understood them better that I thought, I would like tu understand better, so, after summer, I decided to retun to english lections, to be able to write and to understand better. And, you kno?, whenever I would really like to go in the US, I'm sure taht there, you have a lot of things taht perhaps we don't know here in Europe, it's perhaps another steep, and I would really like to know it. I don't know how, because being full blind, I'm a little bit afraid to go alone, but I'm sure that I will find the way to do it.
So, Apple changed really my life, my experiences and everything, and I thanks Apple really very much for everyting that they did, that they do, and that they will do in the future. Many many thanks!

Submitted by Alex Marositz on Friday, June 7, 2019

This was a very good, thoughtful post. For my own opinions, check out my comment on "Inspirational Stories: How, and why, did you get into the Apple ecosystem?"
Scott, your comment on excel is apt, they've never fixed it. But, I think it is worth saying, that bug is fairly esoteric. Some of the accessibility/usability issues I've found on oSX and iOS are severe enough so as to not be able to work. Sometimes you need the precision that Windows screen readers allow. That being said, there are absolutely certain tasks that are just easier on iOS/oSX. Example: when I was in grad school, I needed to sight cases and other documents. There was no citation manager that was accessible on Mac (this was before Microsoft Office was accessible on Mac). Moreover, I could not access and read pdfs that had been marked up with accessibility features because Voiceover could not access tables and alt-text with Preview. I could on Windows. I would argue that those limitations were more of a show-stopper than the excel formula bug. It depends so much on your use-case.
Maria, your comment got me thinking, It is troubling to me that to be versatile and productive in the workplace, people with visual disabilities probably need to be comfortable on all platforms and with multiple screen readers. That seems unreasonable. At the same time, it is better than those Nokea 6620 days. LOL.

Hi Alex.

I would absolutely agree that the Excel example is a bit esoteric. That was just an example of a long running bug on the Windows side of things that I could think of right off the top of my head as I was writing but there were other similar but less esoteric bugs too. I was just using the excel bug example to make a point that these sorts of problems exist with other companies as well.

I entirely agree with you that what is better for a given person depends on their use case. For example, although I like Numbers for light use, if someone has to work extensively with complex spreadsheets, despite the Excel bug, they would be better off doing so in Windows. Excel is just better suited for such things than Numbers and Excel works better with Jaws in Windows than it does with Voice Over on the Mac. That said, if I were to find myself in a situation where I again had to regularly work with complex data sets, I believe that I would use Excel in Boot Camp or VM Fusion on my Mack rather than switching back to a PC. But, to each their own and it does very much depend on the individual use case.

Submitted by Darrell Bowles on Friday, June 7, 2019

I have used apple, android, and windows, and even had to use linux for a spell.
The problem for me is that windows is practically required on all the jobs that I am applying for. However, The PC that I am using is having this really weird fan problem, and if I can't get it repaired or replaced, I'm going to ask for a refund, and I may get a mac.
The problem is that macs are so much more expensive, but I guess that'd the way the ball bounces some times.
My issue with all this is, is that we have to know multiple opperating systems, and all the forms of accessibility on them, when most people only need to know one or perhaps two.
I have used JAWS for over 20 years, and during that time I happily owned a mac with Voice Over, two of them in fact. I still have one of them, an old mac mini from 2009, that is probably good for only a paper weight now, but that's neither here nore there. I have to say, that very few times did VO crash, and if it did, it usually came back up on it's own rather quickly.
My one regret is that I did not dive in to things like text editing and other applications more seriously on the mac. Wish someone had a mac they might be willing to part with. lol :)

Submitted by charles on Saturday, June 8, 2019

I do feel that Apple does care about blind users. If they did not, Voice-Over would not exist, or, if it did, we would have to pay for it separately and get it installed. I do have issues with Siri, though. With each new full update from 11 to 12 and now 13, we get new Siri voices. However, Siri will still not do simple tasks. Example: Siri will open apps, but will not close them. Issues such as these should be fixed before new voices are added. I feel the same about the phones. Focus is on improved eye candy while functionality stays basically the same. Better videos and photos, better screens. How about battery life and audio? I will give credit, though if app sizes are cut by 40 percent and the speed of opening them is increased by 30 to 50 percent this year. All users, whether blind or not would benefit from improved performance rather than more flashy eye candy.

Submitted by Trenton Matthews on Saturday, June 8, 2019

The one thing I hope that VoiceOver could do one day, is to have a built-in "Virtual Screen" feature, for those applications where if an interface is "textual" enough, you'd be able to click on certain items that pretain to a game or even play those Fighting Fantasy Game Books "natively" with out needing to always ask a developer.
Or even work with the "Tastey" app on iOS, where as of this writing, its "broken!" It ain't on the Android side though, thus hopefully the iOS one gets fixed soon.

Submitted by Lysette Chaproniere on Monday, June 10, 2019

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

I agree it’s not fair to say that Apple doesn’t care about accessibility. VO and other accessibility tools are installed on all Apple devices. That’s a huge improvement! We can access our devices at no extra charge, and with no time/effort spent on installing extra software. Just compare that to the days when we had to rely on software like JAWS. In addition, Apple have made it not only possible, but easy and intuitive for a blind person to use a touchscreen. I doubt many people would’ve believed that was possible. I certainly didn’t. Even once I knew how popular the iPhone had become among VI people, I was still sceptical. Perhaps other blind people can use a touchscreen, I thought, but not me. More and more developers are realising the need for accessibility, and lots of creative work is being done both inside Apple and by 3rd party developers to solve accessibility problems, and many of them go above and beyond in engaging with VO users and acting on feedback.

On the other hand, it’s incredibly frustrating when major bugs make it into software releases, when we have to put up with problems other users wouldn’t put up with, when those bugs are so basic that it makes me think the software hasn’t been tested with VO, when apps that could be made accessible aren’t and when developers aren’t aware of the issues or why they are important. So long as we don’t have equal access to apps we could reasonably expect to access, we should keep on pointing out the problems and (respectfully and politely) pushing for more accessibility. We are paying customers and, as far as possible, should get the same access as everyone else. It’s not just about equal access to technology. Access to apps often means access to life because we use our technology to do things other users don’t necessarily need their phones for.

So, it’s important to find a balance between recognising the progress we’ve made, but being willing to speak out where there are still problems. Things are still not ideal, but they’re a lot better than they were.

Submitted by Ann Marie B on Tuesday, June 11, 2019

In reply to by charles

Hi Charles. I do agree with you about Siri. Siri can read and compose emails and/or text messages but cannot delete them??? It appears that most of Apple's major updates focus primarily on visual appeal than accessibility. I understand the market and stats side of things...however it would be nice if Siri can do more practical things such as delete emails/msgs or add contacts etc... Curious how voice control and voiceover will work together.

Submitted by alex wallis on Tuesday, June 11, 2019

I suspect the reason that siri can't delete things is because if you don't use hey siri and only use the side button to invoke siri anyone can pick your phone up and use your siri, so imagine the possibilities if someone could delete stuff using your siri.

Hello everyone,
but so, if you use "Hey Siri" can she delate etc.?, I don't think so.
I agree with Anne Marie, it would be great, that Siri could do other things, as, for example down lowad directly free apps form Apple Store
ON the other hand, I'm very courious about the new Voice Control, for example, I'm couriuos to know if it would do these operations as for example down load apps, and how will it work t toghether with Voiceover, how w wil be the compatibiity or not between them, etc.
In regard with it, I would like profit to thanks Applevis Team, for the really wonderful interview which was done to Apple Accessibility tea (So, Sara and Tim, sorry, I don't remember their surnames), I found it really very very interesting, and I would like simplily say you, tahnks you very much, thans you for all your work, and for everything which you are doing for us, siples users, many many thanks.

Submitted by María on Thursday, June 13, 2019

In reply to by Darrell Bowles

Hi Darrel,
I have to use Windows in the office as well but, since I bough my Mac, in september, at home I use only it, and I must say that I find Mac system and VoiceOver as screen reader much better and simple than Windows and Jaws. It's true that I had the best teacher taht i could have. About price, DArrel, I don't agree with you. Theoretecally Mac is more expensive but if you think taht when you buy a pc, afterwards you need buy Office lincence, for example, at the end the difference in my opinion is not so big.
Personally I really love tex edit, for me is really inough, and yes, I would like know more things about this editor, I feel that I could do with it much more things, but I cannot, because I don't know, and I regret it.