Apple’s App Review Should Test Accessibility

John Gruber at Daring Fireball and Jim Dalrymple at The Loop both commented on a horribly written article by Reuters' Christina Farr this week. Their main issue with her article was how it inaccurately and inexplicable claims that Apple somehow is feeling the most pressure from accessibility advocated to improve accessiblity on iOS, when in truth Apple is way out ahead of Android and all other competitors when it comes to accessiblity support.

John Gruber asks:

A few things in this article stuck out to me as oddly slanted. First, in what world does the above paragraph make sense? Why should Apple be “feeling more heat” than Google on the accessibility front? Where does the article state that iOS is far ahead of Android in terms of out-of-the-box accessibility for the vision impaired? (It doesn’t.)

Then Farr pulls a quote from Tim Cook out of context, selectivley leaving off the later half of the quote to make it sound as if Tim Cook is scorning accessilbity, when he was actually doing the opposite.

Here is the quote she used:

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook in a 2013 speech at Auburn University described people with disabilities “in a struggle to have their human dignity acknowledged.” He said, “They’re frequently left in the shadows of technological advancements that are a source of empowerment and attainment for others.”

Here is the entirety of the quote, unedited:

“People with disabilities often find themselves in a struggle to have their human dignity acknowledged, they frequently are left in the shadows of technological advancements that are a source of empowerment and attainment for others, but Apple’s engineers push back against this unacceptable reality, they go to extraordinary lengths to make our products accessible to people with various disabilities from blindness and deafness to various muscular disorders. I receive hundreds of e-mails from customers every day, and I read them all. Last week I received one from a single mom with a three year old autistic son who was completely non-verbal, and after receiving an iPad, for the first time in his life, he had found his voice. I receive scores of these incredible stories from around the world and I never tire of reading them.” “We design our products to surprise and delight everyone who uses them, and we never, ever analyze the return on investment. We do it because it is just and right, and that is what respect for human dignity requires, and its a part of Apple I’m especially proud of.”

As Jim Dalryple says:

Dear Reuters, you fucking morons: You can’t pick and choose which parts of a quote you want to use to fill the narrative of a story you already have written. You could have written a fine story about accessibility and everyone would have agreed with you, but what you did is show your lack of integrity, essentially harming a very important message about accessibility.

Next time, stick to the facts.

Also check out this follow-up post by Gruber in which he quotes the opinions of an actual disabled person when it comes to accessibility on iOS.

Now moving on to the topic of accessibility in general, Marco Arment took the opportunity of these blog posts to advocate for greater emphasis by Apple on 3rd party developers to support accessibility in their apps:

Accessibility failures should be embarrassments to all developers because they’re usually very easy to fix. For most problems, you just need to add label text to a custom control or image button. Rare “complex” issues are usually less than an hour’s work.

I try hard to get accessibility right… when I remember to. My triple-tap home-button shortcut is always mapped to VoiceOver so I can easily test. I include VoiceOver users in betas whenever possible and had an extremely valuable and insightful accessibility review in the WWDC labs this year. But I still occasionally ship unlabeled buttons, hidden-view clutter, or inaccessible custom views.

Poor or broken accessibility is exactly the sort of problem that Apple’s App Review team should check for: many developers forget to test it, it’s easy for Apple to quickly test when reviewing each app, and it’s easy to fix.

Marco goes on to explain more about the issue in general and some steps Apple might take to improve accessibility support in iOS when it comes to the App Store.