Proposal: Applevis Accessibility Advocacy Assistant

Hello Applevis Members and Editorial Team,

I would like to propose to the Applevis Editorial Team that we implement the Applevis Accessibility Advocacy Assistant (AAAA). The purpose of this assistant would be to enable Applevis members to easily and quickly contact an app's developer to advocate for VoiceOver accessibility and to track the results of advocacy efforts.

AAAA would work as follows:
1. A logged-in Applevis member accesses an app listing in either the iOS or Mac app directory.
2. She presses a button to begin the advocacy process.
3. The member enters one or more email addresses that may lead to contact with the app's developer, depending on the contact information that developer makes publicly available.
4. She creates an initial request that asks the developer to make the app VoiceOver accessible, improve its accessibility or correct accessibility issues. The Applevis accessibility advocacy template is pre-loaded to make this request easier to compose.
5. The request is submitted.
6. Applevis sends an email to the developer(s) that includes a tracking number in the subject.
7. When the dev replies to the email, that reply goes back into the original case.
8. At this point, other Applevis members may create relevant internal notes within the case. The submitting member, or any member of the Applevis Editorial Team, may reply to or continue emailing, the developer.

I hope this proposal helps. Unfortunately, I am not a software developer, and my time is severely limited nowadays, but I would be happy to help with the conceptualizing and testing of AAAA and, of course, I would use it from time to time. :-)

Regards,

Darrell

Forum: 

I love it

I think if this was done well, it would be a great way to put more pressure on developers. If they knew that not responding to accessibility requests could be tracked by lots of blind customers or other customers with disabilities, not to mention the media, it could add power to those requests. Some well-placed articles in tech or other publications wouldnt be too difficult to get either: blind coders create an app for blind iphone users to better draw attention to developers who discriminate against them, etc. unfortunately, i am also totally useless in actually developing such an app.

Don't like the idea

I think that the person who is directly having problems with an app's accessibility should be the one in contact with the developer. Therefore, the person can make it as public or private as they like. The problem with your system is that developers are being publicly shamed. Whenever I try to contact anyone with an advocacy request, I try to keep the person involved feeling very happy, except for the one small issue that I am having with their product or service? We should only make a mass accessibility effort if it affects a huge (over 250 people, let's say) portion of the blind community. Using things like tracking numbers is inappropriate in my opinion. Using things like an Accessibility Officer as you propose makes it seem like we are trying to "force-feed" accessibility--not a good idea.

Public shaming, embarrassing our sensibilities also

Your system is creating a lynch mob, no two ways about it. You're suggesting that we force development to increase by five hundred emails all saying the app in question isn't or is needing accessibility overhauling. do you not think anyone who wants an app changed hasn't found, clicked, sent the email? So why do we all have to band together like little soldiers to justify this system? We already have ways of contacting a developer, why make it more of a nuisance? Someone asked if there was anyone from apple who would read these forums. With a hair brained scheme like this, I'd be frankly embarrassed at the tone of most of the posts. Technology needs to update, yes, we need to advocate for change, the more we isolate ourselves in a blind community bubble, the more we subsect ourselves into the tiniest sector of the supply chain possible, it's a wonder anything gets done with the lack of faith in progress. We can't be blind, we have to make sure we're heard raise our voices blah blah, instead how about saying to a developer, hey here's how i use a phone, I'd like to use your app, here's how it can get better. Nope, we have to band together to make each other feel vindicated when an update improves our lives, then flip out when it doesn't in the next one. Don't even get started on where the app might be available in what country.

Accessibility is a Right Not a Privlidge

Darrell offers a novel system to raise the visibility of accessibility concerns to developers. App accessibility problems are real and often ignored. I would go farther than Darrell though. The proposal does not distinguish between those that have a legal obligation to effectively communicate to the blind and those that have no legal obligation. Should we be not ready to hold entities to their legal obligations to provide accessible services to us? I believe serial litigation can be an effective means to force access by some and encourage others to develop accessibly.

Emotional accessibility

I've been thinking about this for a while, so it's going to be a long comment.

At Apple, the people who work on accessibility feel emotionally connected to their cause--they are called by nature to make their products accessible. Let's step back a moment and look at a single developer. I'll choose the developer of A Dark Room. A blind player reached out to him on Twitter and asked him to make his game accessible. Amir, the developer of the game, could have easily refused--he is the only person working on the iOS version of the game. He could have completely ignored the blind player and moved on to achieve fame without the support of the blind community. But he didn't: he saw a need for accessibility and reached out to it. If you have listened to the audio clip at the end of the game where he talks about accessibility, you can hear the emotion in his voice. You will never hear that emotion if you force people to make their products accessible. I agree that certain businesses need to be bound by the law and make their products accessible, but not every service is required to do this. If we can be like that blind player on Twitter and calmly ask for accessibility, I think we'll see a lot more happen than if we clammer to make things accessible for us. People donate to charities because they feel an emotional connection to do so; they don't have to, but they choose to. Don't read this comment incorrectly: blind people are not a "charity" but the same concept applies.

Do they have to (public shaming)

App Developer

I help out with ADA compliance in the nonprofit sector. Additionally, a portion of my time is spent working on the ADA board of the local transit system. Finally, I do consulting on the side for developers or organizations that want technical aspects of their processes accessible. Through the years, I have found a few different concepts apply to this problem.

1. Calling someone out in public creates problems. The community access board I used to help tried the public shaming method. It miserably failed because the board got called out in public as a response to the original request. Someone had to put a stop to it - a flame war would start soon. As we found out, this destroys relationships in the long run. If we force developers to make their apps accessible because 100 blind people will call them out in public, who wants to bet that the relationship between the developer and the blind community would be damaged? After this, the developer has every right to refuse help.
2. There are two primary groups of developers or service providers. Ones required to comply with the Rehab Act (508C compliance), and those who are not required to comply. Those required to comply are those who provide a service or develop software and processes sold to the U. S. government, individual state governments, or their contractors. Everyone else is not required to comply with the Rehab Act.
3. The ADA law makes no provisions related to information technology accessibility. Instead, it focuses on access to employment, access to essential daily activities, and access to government agencies. Unfortunately, the ADA will not help here.

The main point is this: Why should the developers and service providers to the private sector listen to anyone at all? There is no law anywhere stating that the developer of Twitter or Google must make their apps or service accessible. If anything, the disabled community should be thankful that someone considered them at all. Public shaming someone not required to comply with a law or social obligation will never work. Instead, each person of the disabled community must present their own case. I will agree with a group consensus. The more people who can get together, discuss problems, then come up with valid solutions like grown adults is recommended. A group leader would be required. They would facilitate the group discussions, then bring the subject up to the developers/service providers at the appropriate time, and in a calm logical order.
So many changes occur because someone calmly and logically presents their problem and solution. It is not enough to make developers and providers aware of the problem. If we are going to point out a problem, we must provide a solution. A local public transit system had problems with people calling wanting to know where the bus is located on route. These calls swamped the dispatcher, and they could not do their job. As a result, our group discussed a mobile app for the local transit system. Of course, with the condition that it have universal access built in. After writing a letter on behalf of the access group, then a follow-up meeting with the board of directors, they put it on the table for the next meeting. 3 years later, and constant communication with the transit system, they now have a mobile app.
If discussions are started and maintained with developers and service providers, something can get done. However, it must be done in a diplomatic manner.

Sounds Rather Drastic

I think Google Chrome somehow ate my comment to this thread, so I'm resubmitting.

I have to agree wholeheartedly with most of the comments here. It wasn't that long ago when I emailed the developers of a website notifying them that their site upgrade presented some issues with VoiceOver and, as I more recently found out, Chromevox. But rather than attack them for their "blatant disregard" for users of assistive technology, I took the time to explain to them what exactly a screen reader is and why I was having issues with their site. I also told them that their site previously worked flawlessly with each screen reader I used to access it. The very next day I received a nice email from one of them, with clear instructions for remedying the situation. It turns out I've since had another issue with part of their site, so when I have more time I'm going to email them back. After all, the person who contacted me encouraged me to reach out to them again with any further issues.

I bring up this example to illustrate the simple fact that public shaming is not at all necessary here. These developers might not know many people with disabilities, and they might not even know any at all. The last impression they'd want to get is that we're all a bunch of whiners and complainers. I know that's how I'd feel if I were one of these devs, and I'd feel that my efforts were going totally unnoticed. This is exactly why I question these hard-core advocacy things in the first place. I could honestly write about this all day, but I've got clean laundry to bring up plus other things to do today.

No Public Shaming

The use of such a system is not at all about any sort of public shaming or any other particular tactic. It is simply about making accessibility requests, advocating in an organized manner, recording our results and tracking the outcomes.

Litigation

My proposed system could be used for litigation purposes by those lawyers and other interested parties who are able to get the proper court order(s) for the requested information to be released.

Otherwise, most importantly, the primary purpose of my system is for developers and customers to find ways to work together, in an organized and hopefully effective manner to get accessibility work done.

I would hope that the existence of trackable cases would urge more developers to take accessibility more seriously long before things get icky and legal...

Daryl, you aren't understanding at all.

Daryl, you're already trying to publicly conform people to your way of thinking. You can't conform an app to always be accessible, accessibility so integrated that one person might hate an app because they can't figure it out, another might not want the app touched because it works just fine. You're already publicly asking us to decide what's right, when clearly you think we are lacking our own decision making powers. we all have for the most part, known what we would like changed, If we do know what we want, we try to ask for it. How many other apps on here and elsewhere have you in general seen have a huge update because five million blind people threw a tantrum for it? The bottom line is there are really no risk takers on here who want to try new apps and judge them for accessibility. we and i mean in general again, wait or ask, has anyone tried, insert app name? I realize money doesn't grow on trees, but this forum, this site, would benefit from so much constructive hey I tried this, expanding our app lists on our phones or devices. I can think the Mac app directory really should include more then it has, but this site is focused on the IOS category. If more people such as myself, searched, downloaded, and if they though tit worthy contacted the developers, i'm sure there would be a better reception then the foot stomping I see so much.

Education

App Developer

Just creating a position where someone initiates and tracks accessibility requests will get us nowhere. The public transit system we used to consult for did not understand the implications of not having a mobile app. Further, they did not understand the implications of this app having no universal access. Developers and organization heads do not think the way a single consumer does. In fact, I have another example from the same transit system. When the city built the new transit center in the middle of town, the board of directors told the contractor to make the building accessible. Every inch had to have universal access in mind. It is true, the building contractor did make it completely accessible for all disabled users of the transit system. However, the contractor did not understand the implications of putting the accessible bus route signs in an inaccessible place for blind/braille users. They were located in the center of each bus bay. Now, how is a blind or braille user going to find a sign in the dead center of a 12ftX30ft bus bay? They never will. Unfortunately, going to the transit operations manager and explaining the problem failed to work. Instead, setting up a meeting and physically demonstrating the problem, taking 3 hours past the close of the official meeting, and educating him on the implications of refusing to fix the problem helped. After the face to face meeting, we drafted a letter of recommendation that outlined exactly what is needed, then talking to the board of directors for 6 months, the transit system now has the route signs in a logical and easy to find place for blind/braille users. In fact, everyone likes the new locations of the signs -- sighted users like it.
Again, the point is a group of calm logical adults who know how to use a system should get together in private, discuss these matters with developers, then help them find solutions to the problem. Maybe if we understood their position on the problem, we can better understand how to help them if possible. You will not win everyone over all of the time, but a large part of the apps could change for the better. Our access group failed at some projects, but at least we know who is intentionally refusing, and who still struggles. After some time of doing this, developers might come to us asking for advice -- who knows.

Well said Andy

Andy I for one appreciate your examples, as they finally are explaining in better terms, what I and others are telling you. Btw, i find it quite ironic the person is proposing this system yet from their own mouth has told us they don't have much time to devote to this. Ok, so you want this done, but do not have the forethought to create time enough to complete your goal? I'd also love to know how the original person, suggests this system could work, by that i'm implying we have no model to by. So put up valid proof you'd like this to exist and not just have yet another pipe dream. If we as consumers educate ourselves on how a game is developed, or an app, as in what engine it should use, by far we can help developers. I don't know how to know what language an app is created in, I can only give suggestive feedback. Whether it works or not, we won't know. Also take into mind ti takes around two weeks plus to get updates aproved, sot here's that.

Re: Education

I think this transit issue is exactly an excellent application for the kind of tracking system I propose. All the mentioned contacts with the transit agency, including the 3-hour face-to-face meeting, would be tracked in this system as a means of showing proof of all the advocacy work being done.

Of course, that would be a much larger implementation than the one I am describing here on Applevis.