Extra Cost for Blindness Apps: Reasonable or Not?

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Within the last couple of years, many apps have entered the market specifically for iPhone users who are blind.   They range from color identifiers, to VoiceOver-specific Facebook clients, to touch-typing apps…and everything in-between.  Some people think a higher price tag for blindness-specific apps is reasonable, others do not.  The answer, I think, lies somewhere in the middle.

As many AppleVis users have pointed out in various discussion threads, many assistive products are very expensive — sometimes prohibitively so.  While the manufacturers of such products may insist they are keeping their prices as low as possible, many blind people beg to differ.  I myself recently heard the estimated price of a new note taker to be released in the near future and thought, “Seriously?”

Most of the blindness-specific apps I have come across are priced reasonably.  Are there some apps out there that I think are overpriced?  You bet.  Just as I think there are other assistive technology products that are much more expensive than they need be.  But, to an extent, an app that doesn’t meet your needs will naturally seem overpriced when compared to an app that you use every day.

Does that mean that it should be okay for developers to overcharge for apps just because they know people will buy them?  Of course not.  However, the unfortunate reality about many (if not all) of these apps developed specifically for people who are blind is that they won’t be bestsellers on iTunes—or even come close—because there is such a low demand in the grand scheme of things.

In the end, it comes back to what is important to you.  And what is important to one person will not be to another.  And that is as it should be.

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I'm good with it.

With the advent of iOS and now other viablly accessible mainstream hardware, the price point for apps I use is about one tenth what it used to be. Sure, I paid 30 bucks for a bar code scanner, but what did a dedicated hardware device cost only a few short years ago? If I compare that 30 bucks to a game for free or 99 cents, it seems expensive, but if I compare it to buying dedicated hardware solutions, it's a bargain. If an app is priced beyond what I perceive its value to be, I won't buy it. That certainly was the case for dedicated 6000 dollar note takers, 1000 dollar bar code scanners, and 300 dollar currency identifiers. I did not buy them. I'm glad they were in the market for those who could afford and justify them. I found alternative solutions that fit my needs and budget. For me, this is the beginning of the promised golden age of accessible technology. Sure, there is still a price gap, but whe an app costs 20 bucks, I find it hard to complain about the "blind tax." I wonder just how much longer I will be paying SMA's for computer based software that is becoming less and less relevant to my daily life. The money I save on those annual maintenance contracts can buy a lot of apps and allow me to run them on current hardware.

Additional cost for Apps for the Visually Impaired

I have been using an Iphone 4S since February and to date I would not agree that Blind people should pay more for Visually Impaired specific apps. My reason for saying this is that to date I have found no V.I App that actually properly works. I live in the UK and all Colour Detector Apps, Scanning Apps & Barcode Apps designed for the Blind fail miserably. Have tried both Free & Paid and they are all equally as bad.

An app that doesn't work, is

An app that doesn't work, is not over price,it's worthless. I agree with that. I might point out that expecting something free or practically free to be great might be setting oneself up for disappointment. Developing a well designed app takes time and money. I don't use colour identifiers. I have no fashion sense and really don't care what colour things are. I don't use scanning apps because the camera on an iPod is not up to it. I haven't spent a penny on apps that do those things. These are the market segments that abound with free or low priced apps. The apps I have spent money on include Digit-Eyes, LookTel Recognizer, and Read2Go. These apps were all 20 dollars, or more. For me, they worked well from the get go, and continue to get better with each new release. They have all positively affected my daily life and improved my sense of independence. I'm not sure how much i would have paid for them, but I certainly don't feel I over paid for what I get out of them.

Reasonable pricing

Notwithstanding other considerations, the limited market is going to effect the price. It takes as much effort if not more to build a specialized app as it does a mainstream app for the same purpose, but there are far fewer buyers for an app that is useful only or primarily to someone who is blind. Thus the developer will have to charge more. As already noted, the difference between the pricing of an app and a dedicated hardware device that performs a similar function is much more significant than the few dollars extra one might pay for a dedicated app over a mainstream one. I am certainly willing to pay it if the app performs as advertised. On that score I have had both good and bad experiences. Vision Assist, though a bit clunkier than a dedicated hardware magnifier, was roughly $6 if I recall. Compared to as much as $800 for the higher end hardware magnifiers, it's a steal! Zoom Reader on the other hand was a waste of $20. I gave up on it after several failed attempts to get it to read more than gibberish on various text formats.

The fact of the matter is

The fact of the matter is that everything tailored to a specific target audience has always been more expensive. Granted, there are projects (like NVDA) or regulations (dependant on country) to get rid of or at least make hardware and software solutions more readily available for those that require them. Apps, let's face it are really really cheap in comparison to most other software packages out there, not to mention hardware, so I see no valid reason to start complaining about it. The decision to purchase an app lies with the end-user and his or her motivations to do so. Basing this on Fleksy, the blindness-related app I've been involved with most lately as well as the app that (I believe) started off this discussion, I can honestly say that I have nothing bad to say about the developers. They're dedicated to make the app the best thing around, forgoing sleep and food to do so. They're even going to various conventions and getting involved in the blind community. At one point they sent out a query to beta testers on what would be a fair price for the app. In the end they went for one of the lowest options available.

Price points of specialized apps

I'd like to see a day where someone can go into the app store and buy a specialized app, but have a price point of, say, $4.95 lets say. If an app like Fleksy was for a price like that, I'd have it on my iDevice right now and making use of it. i don't think anyone's saying that all apps, especially blindness and other specialized ones should be free. That's unrealistic. All I'd like to see is the price to go down just a little bit.

Same app, same price, same time

My ideal is that the blind have access to the same apps as our sighted counterparts to perform the same functions. I would rather not need specialized apps except for specialized activities. I could wish that it were possible for Fleksy to market their app to everyone both sighted and blind, but to do so the price cannot be what it is. A keyboard that works without pinpoint accuracy is appealing to both sighted and blind people. IOS app developers, in my experience have been remarkably receptive to requests for accessibility, and that gives us an opportunity to show that adding accessibility to mainstream products helps everyone. When it comes to purchasing apps which perform functions uniquely useful to blind people then and only then is it reasonable to accept the economies of scale argument and pay the higher prices that come with it.

accessble APPS

As a blind person, I understand the we may need some APPS to help us such as a color reader and money reader or similar APPS. However I do not want to not be able to use universal APPS that all people who have apple products use. I feel that applevis is doing a great job making sure that we are able to do by providing feedback to those who develop APPS. We need to urged and encourage them to continue to make all APPS accessible to us. We want to be part of the world community and not to be segregated.

Re: Same App, Same Price, Same Time

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Thomas has hit the nail on the head. I firmly believe that one should not pay extra just for a mainstream app to be accessible...that would truely be the "blindness tax" if ever there was one.

Fleksy and pricing.

I'm writing this entire post with Fleksy. Although there are some issues with the app, I think they've done an awesome job and didn't mind paying the price to purchase the app. There will be blind people who think everything in life should be free. This app is well worth the price. I'm sure corrections and improvements will come with updates.

Seal of Approval

The cost on some is pretty ridiculous. But I'd be much more prone to, if I knew that it did what it claimed. Apple doesn't even have a catagory for Accessible Apps.. That's part of the reason, although not solely, why a site such as this exists. But what I'd like to see... And maybe AppleVis could do it. Is create a seal of approval, that yes this is VO compatible or not. Maybe VO A+ or VO B+ or something that developers could put in there documentation in the iTunes store. Maybe even in the App title like Certified VO Compliant some acroynm CVOC or something. Just a thought.. anywho. nice Blog entry.

software trials

is it not now possible for people to offer trials of their software on a timed basis so that people can try them out? I wouldn't mind paying £10 for flexy if it works. I refuse however to pay anything for apps such as VoiceBook which is still rather rough round the edges. It was good to be able to try this app to see if I liked it however.

Apple doesn't offer that model

App Developer

Basically you need to buy an app. If you don't like it, you can return it and you get money back. Software vendor can make separate "Lite" version but it usually adds costs to develop multiple versions.

Re: Seal of Approval

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

I like your suggestion about having a seal of approval for accessible apps. While I'm not sure how such a system would be implimented, you have given me some ideas to pass along to the rest of the team for discussion.

The Apple Tax

Something that I've not seen mentioned here or in the discussion about the pricing of Fleksy, is the 30% cut that Apple takes right off the top of every app sale.In the case of Fleksy, that would bring the developer's share down to just over $10.I know that this might still sound like a lot to some, but when you consider that they probably have a team of 2 or 3 people actively working on the app, you need to sell a lot to cover just their salaries (which still leaves on-costs and lots of other bills to be paid).So, out of curiosity, how many copies of Fleksy do we realistically think will be sold?Assuming that there are just 2 salaries to cover, and we set each at $50,000 per year (which is probably half of what an experienced iOS developer might actually get paid), they would need to sell 10,000 copies of the app each year to just cover salaries.Anybody care to speculate on whether 10,000 is realistic? Personally, I don't see it happening yet, in which case the developers are likely to be subsidising the cost of the app for quite some time. They might even argue that they are the one's paying this supposed 'blind tax', and that devoting their obvious skills to developing a 99 cents game that gets 1 million downloads might be an easier and more realistic way of making money.Just my thoughts.

Re: Seal of Approval

I like the idea of a seal of approval. That way, people would know prior to even downloading the app whether or not it is accessible. I suppose a developer could lie about this, but I think that would need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Regarding pricing of these things, I definitely agree that some of these costs, or a lot of them, need to be reduced. Some of the Windows-based screen readers certainly come to mind here. But there are some apps which I believe are reasonably priced. Granted I've not yet used most of them, since I am still rather new to the Mac. But one example of this is Battery Monitor, which I purchased and installed earlier this year. It does exactly what the developer claims it will do, and works great.