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iOS 8 Accessibility Call to Action

September 17, 2014 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

iOS 8 hit the street with accessibility bugs that severely impact bluetooth keyboards, Braille support, screen scrolling and other critical areas of the operating system on which blind VoiceOver users rely in order to effectively use iOS devices. A list of The Accessibility Bugs in iOS 8: From Serious To Minor effectively describes the situation on iOS 8 launch day.

Accessibility bugs impact not only people who want to stay current with the latest version of iOS on their existing devices, but they also affect those who have purchased a new iPhone 6, where there is no choice to downgrade the version of iOS.

Let’s help the decisionmakers at Apple understand that we want an equal seat at the Apple table. We want to be able to use our iOS devices on terms of equality with the sighted. Since VoiceOver is built into iOS, that means we need Apple to make correcting accessibility-related bugs a high priority.

How You Can Help

If you are a blind or low-vision iOS user, or you are someone who cares about one, we ask that you please take at least one of the following action steps:

  • If you upgraded to iOS 8 or you bought an iPhone 6 or 6+, email or call Apple’s accessibility team at 1-877-204-3930 and ask for resolution of the accessibility bugs found during the iOS 8 developer beta.
  • If you have not yet upgraded to iOS 8, or you are hesitant to purchase a new iPhone, email or call Apple’s accessibility team at 1-877-204-3930 and explain how your upgrading and purchasing decision is being impacted by new accessibility barriers introduced in iOS 8.
  • Email Tim Cook ( or tweet him @tim_cook asking him to direct Apple’s iOS developers to address the accessibility bugs discovered by blind VoiceOver users during the iOS 8 developer beta cycle.
  • Post on Twitter about your iOS 8 accessibility concerns by mentioning AppleAx and including the #apple, #ios8 and #a11y hashtags.

Let’s all take action today to insure a brighter future for blind, deaf-blind and low-vision people in the Apple ecosystem.

Accessibility Report on Foursquare 5.0 for iOS

June 7, 2012 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

In this approximately 26-minute podcast, Darrell Shandrow demonstrates some of the VoiceOver accessibility concerns found in the latest Foursquare 5.0 iOS app update.

On the heels of its Wednesday update, Foursquare posted a brief article on its support website stating that accessibility is a “top priority,” inviting users to submit problem reports to We urge all blind Foursquare users who rely on VoiceOver to submit a clearly-written accessibility report to Foursquare as soon as possible.

The following accessibility report has been sent to Foursquare’s development team at for their consideration.

Hello Foursquare Development Team,

I am writing to thank you for inviting the blind VoiceOver user community to be part of the Foursquare accessibility development process and to report my accessibility concerns with Foursquare 5.0.

There are two primary accessibility issues throughout the new app’s user interface: unlabeled buttons and elements that provide no accessible information. I will demonstrate these by way of a podcast and a step-by-step write-up. It is my hope that the podcast will serve as a live example while the write-up will represent a concise description of the issues.

Please be sure VoiceOver is enabled on your iOS device in Settings > General > Accessibility >VoiceOver before opening Foursquare and following these steps.

Friends Tab

  1. Double tap the Friends tab in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen.
  2. Flick to the right repeatedly through this screen, listening to VoiceOver speak each user interface element.
  3. Listen to VoiceOver read elements such as “button,” “activity btn comment” and “activity btn like.”
  4. Observe that it takes five or six right flicks to read the information about each friend in the new user interface where it used to require just one.
  5. Notice there’s no longer an option to select between “near by” and “world wide” friends. Either this option is no longer available or it is not accessible to VoiceOver users.


  1. Tap the top of the Friends screen with four fingers to make sure you are at the top. VoiceOver should say “Logo.”
  2. Flick right once to and double tap the “Global Checkin” button.
  3. Flick right repeatedly through the checkin screen, listening to VoiceOver read each user interface element.
  4. Notice that VoiceOver says “map” before reading the first place on the list. The meaning of this is unclear. Are we missing some important context or information?
  5. Continuing to flick right through the list, listen for an element that says “current location.” Double tapping this element seems to do nothing except repeat “current location.” What is happening with this item?


  1. Tap the top of the screen with four fingers. VoiceOver should say “Logo.”
  2. Flick to the right repeatedly through this screen, listening to VoiceOver speak each user interface element.
  3. Notice that VoiceOver says “map” before reading the first place on the list. The meaning of this is unclear. Are we missing some important context or information?
  4. Continuing to flick right through the list, listen for an element that says “current location.” Double tapping this element seems to do nothing except repeat “current location.” What is happening with this item?
  5. As you flick to the right, observe several elements where VoiceOver clicks and says nothing.

Please feel free to let me know if I may beta test or be of further assistance in your accessibility efforts.

Darrell Shandrow

We love hearing from our listeners! Please feel free to talk with us in the comments. What do you like? How could we make the show better? What topics would you like us to cover on future shows?

If you use Twitter, let’s get connected! Please follow Allison (@AlliTalk) and Darrell (@darrell).

New Blio for iOS app: A Brief Demo

July 14, 2011 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

This approximately 18-minute podcast represents a brief run-through of the new Blio ebook reading app for iOS developed by KNFB Reading Technology, Inc.

While the Blio app is VoiceOver accessible, I have reached the following observations, which are clearly demonstrated in the podcast:

  • The app is sloppy and clearly not ready for primetime. I’m surprised Apple approved it in its current form.
  • The Blio reading experience is unsatisfying.
  • Blio for iOS lacks important navigation, such as lines, sentences and paragraphs, one might expect while reading books.
  • Finally, the app lacks a help section or tutorial page.

Listen or Pause – Brief Blio Demo

Download – Brief Blio Demo

Categories: accessibility, podcast

Updated SoundHound App Restores VoiceOver Accessibility

June 19, 2011 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

SoundHound restored VoiceOver accessibility for its blind customers in the app’s June 16 version 3.6.3 update. This approximately 14-minute podcast demonstrates the improved navigation and reading of music identification results.

The update represents a significant move in the right direction. While all information is now available by flicking through the results window, its unstructured layout could cause confusion. It is not immediately apparent which field represents a song’s artist and its title. Labeling of fields and use of VoiceOver hints would significantly increase readability.

We thank SoundHound for its responsiveness and look forward to future accessibility enhancements.

Listen or Pause – SoundHound Accessibility Update

Download – SoundHound Accessibility Update

Categories: accessibility, iPhone, podcast

Important: Blind Students Needed to Test E-Books at the 2011 NFB Convention!

June 15, 2011 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Dear students,

Pearson, one of the leading college textbook publishers, has set up a special session at the NFB national convention to get feedback from blind students regarding the accessibility of a new math workbook they are developing. They would like to get 15 students to meet with them during this session, and so far, only four have signed up. We would really like to support Pearson in their initiative to make online learning materials accessible. Please help us out by signing up for this session on Thursday, July 7, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. If you have any free time between 7 and 9 on Thursday, even if it’s not the whole two hours, please let me know-we may be able to work around your schedules so we can get as many student participants as possible.

If you would like to help with the testing, please email me as soon as possible at nabs (dot) president (at) gmail (dot) com so I can give your name to Clara at the national center. Thanks in advance for your help in improving accessibility for blind students.

Arielle Silverman, President
National Association of Blind Students

Categories: accessibility

SoundHound Asked to Roll Back Accessibility Declines and Open the App’s Ears to Blind VoiceOver Users

May 17, 2011 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

This is a collaboration effort between No Eyes Needed and Blind Access Journal, two leaders in blindness advocacy and the mobilization of efforts to improve accessibility in mainstream products, services and resources. Our goal today is to share insight on the current state of accessibility within the popular iOS music identification app, Soundhound. We will give you a brief rundown of Soundhound’s history pertaining to access with Apple’s built-in, screen reading solution, Voiceover, as well as a short audio walkthrough of the application’s interface and inaccessible components from a blindness perspective. The application was once a tremendously beneficial resource with nearly 100% accessibility for Voiceover users. It is our hope with this article and audio demonstration that we can illustrate the decline in access and some areas that the Soundhound development and engineering teams can address as soon as possible. Finish reading SoundHound Asked to Roll Back Accessibility Declines and Open the App’s Ears to Blind VoiceOver Users

CSUN: Braille 2000 and Accidental Accessibility

March 28, 2011 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

I had an enlightening conversation with Dr. Robert Stepp, where I learned that the Braille 2000 translation software for transcribers is accidentally accessible but not marketed for use by blind people. I think we ended on a positive note, and I hope many of you will find this an interesting look at how some small companies in our own field employ many of the same arguments as the mainstream technology industry to explain why they are not fully accessible.

Listen or Pause – Braille 2000

Download – Braille 2000

Seeking Qualified Blind People to Apply for Bookshare Job Openings

February 15, 2011 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Benetech is looking to fill four Bookshare positions with highly-qualified professionals who know how to lead teams, manage projects, plan products, write grant proposals and much more.

If you’re blind and you believe you’ve got what it takes, please check out these position postings and apply as soon as possible.

Through the employment of a representative number of blind people and others with print-reading disabilities in decision-making positions, we can restore the heart of Bookshare and guide it to a more accessible, responsive future. Let’s all get out there and fill the inboxes of Benetech’s human-resources team with awesome cover letters and resumes that will get their attention and get our people in the door!

Phoenix-Area Blind iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch Users Asked to Fill the Room at Upcoming iOS Developer Group Meeting

January 29, 2011 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

The Phoenix iOS Developer Group (PI) will be holding its February meeting on the topic of accessibility. Justin Mann, a blind iPhone user, will be presenting on the use of Apple’s built-in VoiceOver screen reader with several innovative iOS apps that enable business productivity, social-media participation, identification of items in the surrounding environment and much more.

Anybody is welcome to attend. This is an excelent opportunity to show some app developers that accessibility matters and that blind people are using iOS devices in number. Let’s fill the room with as many Phoenix-area blind people and their talking iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches as we possibly can!

The meeting will be held at the University of Advancing Technology located at 2625 West Baseline Road, Tempe, Ariz., from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 2.

We look forward to seeing all of you there.  

Making a Difference by Thrusting Accessibility into the Public Sphere

January 7, 2011 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

On Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010, Karen and I enjoyed a nice dinner meeting with Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Marc Parry in a nearby Applebee’s restaurant for an initial in-person interview as part of a story he was writing about technology accessibility for blind college students. Over the following Monday and Tuesday, Marc and I spent a great deal of time reviewing and testing the accessibility or inaccessibility of a number of college-related websites.

On Dec. 12, 2010, the Chronicle published an article entitled Blind Students Demand Access to Online Course Materials, in which my contributions were prominent.

The article highlighted significant accessibility barriers with ASU on Facebook, an application designed to help Arizona State University students connect in a virtual community. The app, developed by San Francisco-based Inigral, Inc., featured controls that couldn’t be accessed by keyboard navigation and images lacking text descriptions.

An Inigral representative contacted me within a few days of the publication of the article, saying she would be in the Phoenix area and asking if we could meet in person to discuss the situation. I agreed, a lunch meeting was scheduled then postponed that very morning till January due to family circumstances.

On Friday, Marc published After Chronicle Story, a Tech Company Improves Accessibility for Blind Users on the publication’s Wired Campus blog, stating that Inigral representatives met with the university’s Disability Resource Center and work is underway to improve the app’s accessibility.

After briefly reviewing the ASU on Facebook app as of Friday, Jan. 7, I can report that significant improvements have already been achieved. The “Go to App” link can now be followed using keyboard navigation, the website is more usable and I notice fewer images lacking descriptions.

Inigral’s co-founder, Joseph Sofaer, posted an accurate Jan. 4 article about the key elements of good website accessibility on the company’s blog.

The important point I hope readers will take away is that advocating for accessibility does make a difference. One more web-based application is now going to be accessible because a blind person agreed to be part of an article published in a widely-reade higher-education publication. It is critical for us to continue going after what we know is right: the equal accessibility that affords us the full participation we must have in order to learn, live and work in society as productive members alongside our sighted peers. This means we absolutely must pound the pavement. When we encounter an inaccessible app, piece of software or website, we *MUST* contact the company about it right away asking that it be corrected. If we don’t get timely responses, we need to follow up, escalating communications as far and as high in a company’s chain of command as they must go in order to get results. It’s a lot of hard work that can’t be done by one person, so I urge each and every one of you out there, whether you are a blind person or a sighted one who cares about us, to do your part by taking each and every possible opportunity to advocate, kick the ball out of the stadium, score the touchdown and win the game for the pro-accessibility team!