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Apple Considering Accessible On-screen Text and Described Videos at Future Events

June 12, 2017 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

After watching Apple’s June 5 WWDC keynote and listening to a summary of the event on Jonathan Mosen’s Blind Side Podcast, it dawned on me that we blind people are missing a lot of critical information!

Many of the videos played at Apple’s events lack sufficient dialogue to be comprehensible by a blind person without audio description, and there’s a lot of text displayed through on-screen slides that is never verbally mentioned by the presenters. On the Blind Side podcast, it was necessary for Jonathan’s sighted daughter to describe the videos and read the on-screen text in order for the blind podcasters to understand important details from the keynote, some of which may significantly impact those of us who rely on the company’s built-in accessibility.

On June 7, I decided to write the following note to Apple’s accessibility team asking that audio descriptions of on-screen text and videos be provided moving forward.

Hello Apple Accessibility Team,
While watching the WWDC keynote, I observed there was no way to hear audio descriptions of the on-screen slide content or the cool videos.
I have since learned about crucial accessibility improvements in software such as iOS 11 that were not verbally mentioned but were presented only through slides.
Have I missed something, or does Apple leave out this critical information?
In view of Mr. Cook’s declaration that accessibility is a “human right,” I am asking Apple to provide audio description of slides and videos during its events moving forward.
I look forward to hearing from someone on your team soon.
Thank you for your consideration.
Darrell Hilliker
Accessibility Evangelist

I received the following same-day response from someone on the company’s accessibility team.

Hello Darrell,
Thank you for your email.  We appreciate the feedback and will pass this on to the appropriate people for their consideration.
Apple Accessibility

While the response was generic as corporate communications go, I am hopeful that the “appropriate people” will take this feedback from a loyal Apple customer seriously and that, moving forward, we will experience accessible on-screen text and described videos at future Apple events.

If you agree that Apple should, indeed, take care to fully include its customers and developers with disabilities by providing accessible on-screen text, audio description and closed captions, please add your voice to mine. Simply visit Apple’s Accessibility website and email the team.

Categories: accessibility, advocacy

2 opinions on “Apple Considering Accessible On-screen Text and Described Videos at Future Events

  1. This idea sounds great. The issue is implementation. Many slides are flashed on the screen for seconds. Live audio description would not be possible because the reading of the text and describing the slide would require so much time it would talk over the speaker because of there is so much information. This could be done in a recorded version of Apple’s keynotes but it would require freeze framing the presentation at times so the information can be read or described. How long are you willing to wait for the accessible version or will you be like most blind people and want to hear the presentation as soon as possible?

  2. Hi Kelly,

    I would like to address the last part of your comment first, if I may…

    You asked: “How long are you willing to wait for the accessible version or will you be like most blind people and want to hear the presentation as soon as possible?”

    Is there any doubt about the right answer to this question? Of course, blind people want access to the same information at the same time as their sighted peers. Is there or should there be any 21st-century context in which it is acceptable to leave people out because they have a disability?

    Now, let’s move on to implementation…

    The idea there is not enough time to provide a full reading of all on-screen text during a presentation may have some validity.

    In that case, the real text could be provided on one of the simplest Internet technologies of all, the web page.

    Perhaps, the website where the event was being hosted could include a link to a blog that happened to contain this text, one article per slide, along with some other content to make it interesting to a wider audience.

    I have just presented two solutions. I’m sure Apple employees could come up with something even more creative and effective.

    The point is Apple can do better than excluding us, and we as a blind community must be willing to raise our expectations and insist on better treatment.

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