Accessibility of Apple devices

(Adam Engst) #1

Here’s a thought. I suspect most of us here don’t see as well as we used to. There are those, like my 73-year-old father, who have reacted by switching to the Plus-sized iPhones. But I wonder if others of us have reacted by looking at the iPhone less. I almost never browse the Web on the iPhone, for instance, because I just can’t see the screen clearly. Many of the things I do on it are highly focused—get in and get out. And there are others, like listening to podcasts in the car or music while stretching, that don’t involve looking at the screen at all. Mapping sort of falls into that last category, since I mostly rely on the audio directions.

It would be interesting, once people are running iOS 12 and can use Screen Time, to see if there’s a correlation between amount of use, specifically screen use, and desire for a smaller iPhone.

Reflecting on Apple's September 2018 special event
(Diane D) #2

You both (or all three of you) nailed it.

I’ve always spent more time on a full sized keyboard. I have a iPad that I absolutely love as well.

I got a Touch in 2007 and 11 years later, I am still not speedy on the phone. I think a bigger one is only going to stretch my fingers uncomfortably, not make me quicker.

I deleted FB from it early this summer. It was just a distraction that takes up space. Most of what I do on the phone is a distraction. Now I play Solitaire as it’s probably better for my brain than FB.

I used to carry books with me, but now I play with my phone if I think I will be waiting anywhere. I don’t need to spend hundreds to do that, I still have books.

My eyesight is an issue, but the fact still remains that I have other methods to keep me distracted, and other ways to surf and type. A big phone is not going to fit in my pocket well, or my bike jersey.


(David Byrum) #3

I think what some of the folks who were disappointed with the presentation have forgotten is that they are not the demographic that Apple is aiming their products at.

Diminished eyesight, trembling hands and/or difficulty typing on the keyboard (all of which I have), are probably not exhibited by those in the Apple demographic.

Oh well.

(gastropod) #4

David Byrum wrote: “Diminished eyesight, trembling hands and/or difficulty typing on the keyboard (all of which I have), are probably not exhibited by those in the Apple demographic.”

I’m not so sure. I think it’s more that Apple is huge, and there are presumably fiefdoms. Apple has a quite good accessibility group, and their presentations for the WWDC sessions that I’ve watched are great. But Apple developers don’t follow the suggestions from their own company.

They also don’t test systematically: I set my iPhone 8 (not plus) to Larger Text ON, and if I set the size to what I prefer, everything in Settings and some other apple apps truncates instead of wrapping, so it’s not possible to read values such as the serial number, or even the full text of some of the settings names. If I set it several notches bigger, then it wraps. But for me, that’s too large. The software knows it’s truncating, because it’s putting in an ellipsis when it does. So why don’t they use that as a universal cue to wrap and damn the pretty formatting? Because developers are mostly young and think that a 9 point font is ‘enormous’?

Maybe Apple should do what some K12 schools (used to?) do and set up an ‘adopt a disability’ program that every developer has to participate in at some point. Come in to work one day, and find out you’ll spend the next week wearing glasses that give you strong astigmatism or lots of floaters, or gloves that reduce finger speed and range of motion. And you still have to get your work done! Maybe some of the Radar bug reports that ‘work as intended’ would actually get fixed.

(Alan Forkosh) #5

I have found that increased pixel density of Retina screens enables me (one of the diminished eyesight folks) the ability to read ’small’ text. I was amased several years ago when I switched from a MacBook Air (still non_Retina) to a MacBVook Pro, how much more legible text was at the default sizes.

(frederico) #6

I’ll say here again on this thread, that the iPhone X has been a game changer for these tired old eyes; the super retina OLED screen is phenomenal in crispness of text, allowing me to read much smaller font sizes without magnification than normal.

(gastropod) #7

Alan Forkosh wrote: "I have found that increased pixel density of Retina screens enables me (one of the diminished eyesight folks) the ability to read ’small’ text. "

Retina does make an amazing difference. Unfortunately, one of my problems is too many floaters, so no amount of correction is going to get me back to my youthful vision, sigh.

[Floaters are a horrible problem for microscopy, too–I basically can’t use anything over 100x directly. Wifi camera (olympus Air) connected to an iPad is a huge win for that.]


Is this for blankety-blank real??? Apple has always focused on accessibility, and I’ve never heard Apple accused of anything like this before anywhere. They had accessibility features in mind since the Apple I, and went in gung ho with the original Mac.

Here’s the home page of the many helpful accessibility features on Apple’s website. They’ve got dedicated areas with loads of features for those with visual and motor handicaps. Apple Stores regularly offer classes and events for people with handicaps, and they have Geniuses trained in assisting people with disabilities. The education area offers features and services for Special Ed.

Developers are strongly encouraged to create accessible apps, and there are always accessibility plugs at every WWDC:

The 2016 WWDC featured a lengthy presentation by a deaf blind Harvard Law graduate and inclusion advocate:

They’ve run TV commercials, print and online ads and videos featuring handicapped people. Here are just two commercials that ran recently:

Last year they ran 14 online videos promoting Global Accessibility Awareness day:

Apple Watch has had a wheelchair mode since day one, and it offers, prompts and monitors exercise programs and tracks movements.

A handicapped relative loves the handicapped mode in her Apple Watch, and a quick search shows how much extra work the team did to develop it:

I will stop myself from ranting about this, but it is an issue I have felt strongly about ever since I was very young.

(frederico) #9

Yes, Apple does better than most other makers; they also talk a big game, but leave glaring, horrifying holes and bugs untouched for literally years. I’ve been reporting numerous UI glitches, bugs and oversights for more than four years in some cases, especially on the Mac, and they have yet to be fixed. They definitely mean well, but they do not allocate the required resources to even keep working what they have made already.

Focus, or the lack of it, and neglect is evident everywhere at Apple. They even tacitly admit it with a Mojave-Snow Leopard and now an iOS 12 Snow Leopard. And yet the Mojave GM still has Accessibility bugs I reported in Lion: Mail and iTunes have issues I reported in El Capitan; various apps also have long outstanding seeing, hearing and motor accessibility issues.

(Tommy Weir) #10

Like Marilyn I have found Apple’s focus on accessibility to be exemplary. I have a severely visually disabled son who has made his way to mid-PhD (so far) using these features extensively through this schooling and college career. The integration of these features into every Mac and iOS device as opposed to specialised systems is one of the reasons our house is so Apple friendly.

(Adam Engst) #11

I’ve just split this into a new topic.

What I’m hearing is that there’s something of a disconnect between Apple’s generally excellent focus on accessibility for those with more significant issues, and a lack of attention to common minor impairments.

In other words, if you’re profoundly visually disabled, like @tommy’s son, Apple does a great job in helping you use technology that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

However, if you’re merely getting older and suffering from common presbyopia and other standard vision problems, the iPhone just isn’t comfortable to use, and the accessibility features are generally more trouble than they’re worth. I have zoom enabled on my iPhone, but every time I try to use it, it irritates the heck out of me and I either switch to my Mac or go find a pair of reading glasses.

Extrapolate that to a variety of physical disabilities.

(frederico) #12

I had an interesting experience for the last two summers; I have been visiting with a very special friend who has gone blind due to detached retina has as part of Parkinson’s disease, which I now have Amann and M possibly destined to also experience. I bought him an iPad, Expecting the accessibility features to just sort of be obvious. It was not. I ended up putting on a blindfold, so that I could learn without looking, so that I can then communicate better to him how to use things. It was an incredible experience; for me I was able to constantly lift and replace the blindfold as needed to understand what I was doing right or wrong; but for him, stumbling around without guidance was just never going to happen. Additionally, his Parkinson’s was and is quite severe, even with medications, his tremors, dyskinesia, and general weakness in his once incredibly talented and dexterous hands, makes things even more difficult. We quickly bought him the largest iPad available, which made on screen controls noticeably larger and easier for him to manipulate. But as mentioned earlier in this thread, we ran into numerous bugs and feature gap’s; and of course not all apps deploy what Apple provides for free.

But he at least you learned to used a number of functions, and was then able to initiate messaging, phone calls (via Wi-Fi), texting, Facebook, Twitter, and most importantly, audiobooks and podcasts and music.

I’m dictating now on my iPhone X, which earlier I bragged as being an incredibly enabling and changing experience; but I’m doing this for the first time in the Discourse app, and it is not functioning well at all for some reason. It’s as though discourses live formatting is struggling against the speed at which I am applying the words. The window is also miniaturized and the text, rather the font size is considerably smaller than using Safari directly. Scrolling is very weird as well. So, I’m not going to bother to edit this post but leave it as an example of the difficulties that people with motor skills degradation will experience and display.

(Tommy Weir) #13

I agree, Speech to Text has a way to go before it’s a matter of pride for anyone.

And Siri’s intelligence on top of that is another area of frustration, it is clearly the future of interface for all and it certainly could be a really useful enhancement of approaches to accessibility (instructions for scrolling etc as you highlight) beyond Voiceover.


I agree 100%. Although Apple isn’t perfect in achieving its accessibility goals, I think it’s important to consider the alternatives. From what I’ve heard, though Google also touts accessibility features, they are generally only not as advanced or implemented as well as in Apple devices. And because there are so many manufacturers and models of Android phones in the wild and so much customization of the OS by so many companies, the features aren’t implemented consistently. Apps that work OK on one brand might might be a disaster on another. So I think think that one iOS to rule them all is a benefit.

(Will M) #15

I agree with many of the comments in this discussion, and suffer from minor vision problems, but I have an unrelated complaint about inconsistent adoption or inclusion of features. Apple has offered a Dvorak keyboard in MacOS for years, and it offers a Dvorak keyboard in iOS for external keyboards, but the on-screen keyboard in iOS does not have a Dvorak option. It seems to me that it would be technologically trivial to make it available, and I struggle to understand why it wasn’t introduced years ago.

(Tom Gewecke) #16

Have you tried any of the dvorak screen keyboards in the app store?

(frederico) #17

Just to be clear @tommy, I’m extremely happy with dictating in most other apps on iPhone X; it’s the Discourse app I tried that was fighting back seemingly due to its live editing function.

(gastropod) #18

Will M wrote: “Apple has offered a Dvorak keyboard in MacOS for years, and it offers a Dvorak keyboard in iOS for external keyboards, but the on-screen keyboard in iOS does not have a Dvorak option.”

Yeah, that’s a pita for me too, and it’s even accessibility related. I started using Dvorak a long long time ago for RSI issues, and it does make some difference. What’s weird is that iOS does have Colemak, which is truly niche as far as I can tell. Any bets on whether one of the developers just happens to like that one?

Thanks for the tip about external keyboards supporting Dvorak! I hadn’t realized that.

Tom Gewecke wrote: “Have you tried any of the dvorak screen keyboards in the app store?”

I’ve only found one third party keyboard layout that I kind of like, “dvorak+colemak”, and it’s really only for the phone. The rows aren’t staggered, which isn’t too troublesome on a tiny keyboard, but it’s infuriating on the iPad.

But third party keyboards are infuriating anyway because of password fields, which revert to an Apple layout for security. So it’s constant hunt and peck and trying to remember to check which layout you’re on for this particular text field. They also don’t allow using dictation (security again), so every time you want to dictate, you have to switch to an apple keyboard first.

There is simply no excuse for not providing Dvorak.

(Will M) #19

Tom Gewecke wrote: “Have you tried any of the dvorak screen keyboards in the app store?”

No. Before I bought my first iPad, which I said I would not do until it had a Dvorak keyboard, a friend bought a Dvorak app and found it completely unsatisfactory.

You’re welcome. It was after I learned about the external keyboard supporting Dvorak that I bought my first (and only) iPad. The external keyboard is much nicer than the screen keyboard, but it all too frequently (few times per week) just stops working until I restart the iPad.

(frederico) #20

I’m just curious, have you ever tried just toggling the Bluetooth off and on? That generally works for me with external devices that get lost. Just pull up for control center (iOS 11), or pull down (iOS 12) to access the quick toggle.