[Nfbnet-members-list] Apple Software and Global Accessibility Awareness Day
gwunder at nfb.org
Sat May 23 01:09:42 UTC 2015
Some of you may find this to be interesting and/or enlightening.
Im Ilkka Pirttimaa, developer of an iOS app
Uniquely it uses Open Street Map and Foursquare
data to help people who are blind to navigate in
new and familiar environments and provide them
with a world of choices, otherwise veiled. I
write this in the spirit of the intent of the
Global Accessibility Awareness Day, to raise
awareness across the globe of the benefits and
know-how on making products accessible. This
needs to be done; and is the right thing to do,
it doesnt need to be difficult.
For people who are blind or partially sighted,
travelling independently has always been one of
the challenges. While some have managed to become
very confident travellers regardless, others,
especially if they have lost sight only recently,
need more time or assistance to learn how to
navigate new environments. Although technology
can never substitute Orientation & Mobility and
cane travelling skills, the right app installed
on your iPhone can help blind and partially
sighted users who have mastered the necessary
skills to be safer and more independent when out
and about. Having been localized to 25 languages,
it is now used by thousands of people in more than 130 countries.
I started developing BlindSquare by chance. When
I read what Wikipedia had to say a few years ago
about augmented reality, I wanted to prove that
augmented reality should not only include visual,
but also auditory perception. It seemed only
logical to me that the traveler who is blind
would benefit the most from that. I managed to
find my first blind tester and when I saw how
enthusiastic she was about the prototype of
BlindSquare I had created and about its future
potential. I decided to continue with the
project. When I released BlindSquare 3 years ago,
it did not yet include many of the important
features available today. But still, I received
very positive feedback and saw how it improved
peoples quality of life. I received a message
from someone who had used BlindSquare at a water
park and had been able to find all of the
attractions there using my app. BlindSquare users
enjoy being able to explore their environment on
their own and also to be able to help their
sighted friends to locate places in unfamiliar
areas. After all, the friends cannot look around
corners, but thanks to GPS, BlindSquare can.
Although BlindSquare is optimized for VoiceOver,
it is perfectly usable for everyone. I have
sighted customers who enjoy hearing popular
Foursquare places announced to them while they are riding their bicycles.
My app is geared towards customers who are blind
or partially sighted, but I think that every
developer should consider if their product could
be made accessible and whenever possible walk the
extra mile. It is just like app localization, it
increases your user base. Let us just take an
example and assume that you develop an app that
gives access to public transport schedules of
different companies and in many cities around the
world. Sighted users may have many apps they can
choose from, but your app might be the only one
that is VoiceOver accessible. Sighted users can
also just read the schedule at the station, an
option not available to blind or partially
sighted users. While your app can be nice to have
for many users, it can be a life-changer for
people who are blind or partially sighted, as it
may be the only means to access information
independently. The same is true for many other apps that come to mind.
· If a parcel-tracking app is accessible,
Blind users do no longer need help reading the
note left by the postman when they return home,
because they can just go and pick up their parcel
from the neighbor whose name they read in the push message on their phone.
· Accessible banking apps can help blind
clients to monitor their accounts and make
transfers without sighted help, enhancing their
privacy and allowing them to be more independent.
The World Health Organization estimates that
worldwide 285 million people are visually
impaired, and 39 million of them are blind. 82%
of the visually impaired are 50 years and older.
Developing accessible apps is an important
contribution to creating a society where everyone
can live as long as possible independently and in
dignity. The screen reader and the zoom feature
integrated into each Apple product make it
accessible to every visually impaired user. The
iPhone gives users who are blind or partially
sighted access to information that would not be available to them otherwise.
documentation about iOS accessibility features.
To learn more about VoiceOver really quickly,
configure your iOS-device so that VoiceOver turns
on when you press the Home button three times, so
you can switch it on and off quickly. If your
language is supported by Siri, you can even tell
her to turn VoiceOver on and off. Now you can
start to learn how it works. If you want to make
a game of it, you can play through the VoiceOver
tutorial by LookTel. Once you know the basics of
VoiceOver, look at your app and see if it works with VoiceOver.
Accessibility is not just an additional feature,
but a best-practice. After all, web developers
test for compatibility with different web
browsers, too. When you start developing an app
and use standard elements, accessibility labels
and label images, it is most likely that your app
will be accessible as iOS has built accessibility
right in. However, as soon as you want to make it
more appealing visually, you should know how to
develop accessibly and make sure that your apps
facelift does not make it unusable for blind people.
Connect with your users and find out how they use
your app. Ask them for examples of apps that work
well for them, look at these apps and learn how
and why they are accessible. AppleVis, a site run
by blind and partially sighted iOS users, is an
excellent place to get feedback and find eager beta testers.
My wish: I hope many developers will embrace
accessibility. It will not just increase their
user base, but it will make a difference in the
quality of life of many people.
· AppleVis resources for developers:
· LookTel VoiceOver Tutorial:
· Apple Accessibility for Developers:
· BlindSquare app:
Gary Wunder, Editor
The Braille Monitor
The National Federation of the Blind knows that
blindness is not the characteristic that defines
you or your future. Every day we raise the
expectations of blind people, because low
expectations create obstacles between blind
people and our dreams. You can live the life you
want; blindness is not what holds you back.
The National Federation of the Blind wishes you a
joyous and safe holiday season. We would
appreciate your including the NFB in your
your contribution now.
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