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Apple Listens, Sometimes, and Advocacy Can Be Worth Doing

November 10, 2017 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

When Apple released iOS 11 on Sept. 19, it dealt a nasty surprise in the email inboxes of those of us whom happen to be blind. A change in VoiceOver meant that, everytime we used a feature intended to help us increase our productivity, we ran the risk of deleting emails we wanted to keep. In his Sept. 29 blog post Cupertino, we have a design problem, blind community influencer Jonathan Mosen delivered a thoughtful explanation of the issue and members of the connected, online blind community began a concerted effort asking Apple to reverse its design decision. As explained in Cupertino, thank you for listening, Apple restored reliable email management to its blind customers in iOS 11.1.

On Nov. 8, Marty Schultz, the developer of the wildly popular Blindfold Games, informed the connected, online blind community he would no longer be able to create new games or update existing games due to a new rule Apple imposed on its app developers in an effort to declutter the app store. Blind people immediately began asking Apple for a reversal of the misunderstanding behind the decision. Mosen wrote an open letter to Tim Cook and an online petition was started asking Eddy Cue to review and reverse the company’s decision.

What do these turns of events tell us? First, while by no means perfect, decisionmakers at Apple are listening to and acting upon the accessibility concerns of blind customers. Second, blind people are proactively advocating for their accessibility rights, providing the feedback companies like Apple need to see in order to make the right decisions. Without our advocacy, I am quite confident many blind people would be deleting the wrong emails in iOS 12 and Blindfold Games would cease to exist. There’s a heck of a lot of work that still needs to be done. Let’s encourage each other and keep on fighting the good accessibility fight!

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