App Accessibility - Do you put any design though into it?

Discussion in 'iOS Apps' started by timobrien, Feb 25, 2009.

  1. timobrien macrumors newbie

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    #1
    I am a legally blind iPod Touch user (not a developer). I have been blogging about the the accessibility of the apps (see iPhone Access). Many people initially react with a "Who cares?" attitude as in why would blind people use an iPhone/Touch. Not all blind people are profoundly blind. I have some usable vision and use that to the best of my ability. This includes getting the most out of my Touch.

    I find most apps difficult to use. No surprise, right? Wrong! The iPhone platform offers some great features that many apps could take advantage of, but do not. Landscape mode, multitouch zoom, adjustable font sizes and high contrast color schemes are all features that can be built into most apps (some obviously not).

    Have you ever thought about these issues? Should you? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    Please visit my blog's iPhone Access page for more details. Let me know if you would like me to review an app.
     
  2. timobrien thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #2
    It has been pointed out to me that this effort may have more fruitful approaches. Specifically, it would be more effect to lobby Apple as well as individual app developers.

    I have already started lobbying Apple. They have an accessibility page for their products and make available a contact point on these issues. I regularly send my thoughts to them. Usually, they reply that my message has been forwarded to someone, but that is as far as it gets.

    I am reviewing each and every app I think I can use on my blog. As I review each app, I post the review to the App Store and forward it to the developers when possible. Some have been responsive, others not.

    I know that Apple has consulted with some of the national organizations for the blind. The focus there tends to be on issues relating to the profoundly blind. Text-to-speech and other non-visual interfaces are the focus of those talks. The issues I am trying to raise affect those of us with functional vision between 20/40 and 20/400. Perhaps this quest is quixotic.

    What I would like to see is that landscape mode and zoom be enabled by default in each and every app and mobile web site. I think this ought to be simple, but I can't find the person who could make this happen. In addition, when feasible, scalable fonts and alternate color schemes ought to be offered. I see this as less likely as it requires more thought and design work.
     
  3. SwingOnThis macrumors regular

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    #3
    OP, the term 'legally blind', does that come from whether or not you're able to get a driver's license?
     
  4. timobrien thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #4
    That is a surprisingly good question. You lose your license when your functional vision falls below 20/40. You are not classified as legally blind until your vision falls below 20/200.

    My vision has deteriorated quite slowly since I was born. When I hit 16, I had vision around 20/100 in my better eye. With a low vision aid, I could get 20/40 in a very small piece of my visual field. The aid was more or less a telescope inset into my glasses. Due to the law being poorly written, my eye doctor was able to write a letter to the DMV to get me a license. He did this on the condition that I never drive. I have not driven since the day I got my license. A few years ago, my vision slid past the arbitrary 20/200 line and I received a note from the DMV revoking my license.

    Other countries have a legal designation for the partially sighted (between 20/40 and 20/200 corredted). Unfortunately, the US does not.
     
  5. timobrien thread starter macrumors newbie

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  6. return7 macrumors 6502

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    #6
    ignorant question: tips on writing iphone apps w/ better accessibility support?
     
  7. timobrien thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #7
    This is not an ignorant question unless most app develops, including apple's, are ignorant. No one, except me (I think), has put much serious thought about making iPhone apps more accessible. Most thought in this regard focuses on the near-impossibility of making the iPhone accessible to the profoundly blind.

    If you want to make an app easier to read (for someone with partial vision), there are four features to look at. First, enable zoom. Second, enable landscape mode. Third, make sure your color scheme provides decent contrast and, if possible, offer an light-on-dark alternative. Fourth, if relevant, offer a choice of fonts and font sizes.

    Does this help?
     
  8. firewood macrumors 604

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    Silicon Valley
    #8
    Accessibility support is not free. I'm against some of the accessibility regulations because the cost-benefit ratio for the total population hasn't been properly quantified.

    As an iPhone app developer, I'd like to know what percentage of my potential customer base needs better accessibility. If it's a high percentage, then great, I'll work on it. If it's not a high percentage, then I would be screwing most of my customers by spending my limited time on improving accessibility, versus spending that time fixing bugs and adding features that the vast majority of my customers could use instead.

    I do empathize a bit though, because I do like to be able to use some iPhone apps when I'm not wearing my glasses.

    imho.
     
  9. timobrien thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #9
    I am not looking for us to become Harrison Bergeron. I am looking at establishing some easy to implement guidelines, not force develops to sped loads of time.

    Me, too. Ask yourself how many of your potential customers wear reading glasses. If you are coding games for kids, then the four-eyed market (which includes me) is small. If you are coding business or productivity apps, your customers will be older. If old enough, the four-eyed segemnt will be strong.

    The you are the target market for my guidelines. Coding for the profoundly blind is impractical right now. But making the iPhone a bit easier to use for those of us who require glasses has a real market demand right now.
     
  10. DreamPod macrumors 65816

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    #10
    Unfortunately, Zoom isn't necessarily an easy thing to add to an App, unless the App is a game (because games are programmed in 3D, and it's really simple to scale a 3D image). Especially when dealing with the iPhone's built-in interfaces - some of them have set-sizes that cannot be changed with the iPhone SDK as it is now.

    High-contrast color scheme and large fonts - now that's pretty easy.
     
  11. timobrien thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #11
    This is why I posted to this forum. I have no idea what set-sizes are or any of the other technical issues involved. What about zoom within text input boxes?

    Excellent. Thank you

    What about landscape mode?
     
  12. SilentPanda Moderator emeritus

    SilentPanda

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    #12
    Landscape mode really depends on the App. Without any code it will just put your app into a landscape mode. With the change in screen width and height this can make your app look odd. You then can't display as much vertically and have dead space horizontally.

    In the app you can make 2 views, a portrait and landscape view. For some apps you really just have to look and see if it makes sense or not.

    Most of the controls in business type apps (buttons, text fields, etc) have default sizes which I think cannot be changed (easily). Making some of those fields bigger on such a small screen just doesn't really work all that well. If you make the font larger you have less room to display words and you end up having to scroll everywhere to see stuff. I have read now and again about Apple being particular about certain UI elements also. I wonder if they would reject an app if you made a large print version?

    As a color blind person myself, I somewhat sympathize since there are some Apps that I just can't use. However I also understand as a programmer that sometimes the effort isn't worth it and it can sometimes introduce unintended side effects.

    Good luck though!
     
  13. liptonlover macrumors 6502a

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    #13
    I feel lucky to be able to sympathize as well. I got glasses when I was young (5 or 6 maybe, don't remember) and my eyesight has slowly lowered since (I'm 15 now). I'm nowhere near legally blind, but without my glasses (well contacts now) I am seriously limited. I can't recognize faces unless they're like 4 feet away or less, I can't read unless I'm holding the book close to my face, etc. But like others have said, I'm also a developer and wouldn't be interested in going through too much trouble to support people like you. Not that I don't care, but I value my time and I'm sure other developers do too. In the game I'm currently making, I actually already have nice contrast (white text on dark brown backing). As for text size, that's hard to do without dealing with scrolling, which is a bit of a pain for the developer and user.

    In the end, there's really just so much that can be done. That being said, I appreciate you doing what you're doing. It's certainly a good cause, kudos to you.
    Nate
     
  14. timobrien thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #14
    The first step is awareness, I think. The more everyone is aware of the issue, the more thought can be put into accessibility as the iPhone platform matures and all the apps evolve.

    If enough users ask app developers for accessibility features, then enough developers may ask Apple for accessibility tools and guidelines.
     
  15. Williamapps macrumors member

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    Feb 4, 2009
  16. Vanilla Cocoa macrumors member

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    #16
    This would really depend on Apple's support.

    On OS X, Apple provides accessibility features (under Universal Access in System Preferences) like VoiceOver, zooming, display inverting (black on white, white on black).

    For an individual developer to try to build the features that Apple already has built would be quite difficult for the developer. Apple has already built the features - they have the code. All they need to do is port it over to the iPhone platform. I don't see why they don't do it.
     
  17. timobrien thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #17
    I agree that Apple can do the most good here with the least work. But there are things that apps can do on top of what apple should do. There are four features that I have found most successful in making an app accessible to the partially sighted. A profoundly blind person needs a tactile and/or audio interface and the iPhone platform is not there yet.

    These four features are:
    • Landscape Mode
    • Multitouch Zoom
    • Scalable (or simply a large) Font
    • High Contrast Color Scheme
    I know that these would not make sense for every app and that enabling them has varying levels of difficulty depending on the app's purpose. But, if app developers can have this list in the back of their minds when designing a new app, perhaps they can be built in with minimal cost and effort.
     

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