Introducing Simplicity Center, a Simple Email and Web Browsing App for Blind or Low Vision iPad Users

App Developer

[This clarification is being added to my original post: Inspired by my 89-year-old mother's challenges with her computer, this app was originally designed to help senior citizens, especially those with early stages of dimentia, to have a safe and simple online experience. A friend, loved one or other caregiver sets up the app for them to ensure they can send/receive email only to/from trusted contacts and thus avoid spam and online scams. Livewise the caregiver bookmarks only safe websites. The app also simplifies the iPad experience for those who are not tech savvy. After the launch of the app in 2014 the suggestion was made that it might be beneficial to some blind or low-vision iPad users so we worked on the app to make it more compatible the Apple's VoiceOver feature.]

Blind or low vision iPad users can more easily use email and browse the web with the help of the Simplicity Center app. When using the iPad’s built-in VoiceOver feature, the app can provide a simpler email and web browsing experience than the native iPad apps. A caregiver or family member acting as the app admin sets it up to meet the individual user’s needs. This may make Simplicity Center especially appropriate for less tech savvy iPad users.

Simplicity Center is four apps in one:

  • Email: Spam-free messages, to and from only trusted contacts
  • Web browsing: easy access to sites bookmarked by the admin
  • Address book: containing trusted contacts
  • Calendar: including event descriptions and reminders

The caregiver in the role of app admin decides which features you use and how to set them up. Address book contacts are entered by the admin to make it easy for the iPad user to email them or look up contact information. Websites can be bookmarked by the admin to make them easy to access by the iPad user. The app is available on the App Store for $5.99.

Visit the app page on the App Store.

Or learn more at the Simplicity Center website.

Forum: 

#1 Flash Support

I read the post. I have a suggestion. Could you put a flash player in the app?

#2 oh, dear

Oh, dear me. ... Words do fail sometimes.
Friendly piece of advice for the developer: Rethink the marketing on this one... Right away.

#3 yes, quite

I couldn't agree more. The first thought I had, was how condescending can this app developer be. Sorry guys, $5.90, or even $.90, is not happening with this app. Not with this sort of advertising

#4 what a joke!

I think this has to be some kind of joke and for the price? I can do better with the apple mail client. Come on guys money talks, do not support this! The apple client is much better then this piece of kit.

#5 Chill out...

Hello,

Come on folks, let’s step back and check what this app is really used for.

I see this app for parents who have young kids that are visually impaired. The parents would like the child to be able to do these things but in a restricted environment.

It could also be used by visually impaired parents to restrict their kid’s access.

The price might seem high but parents know kids restricting software isn’t cheap.

HTH and good luck to the developers.

#6 Re: Parents Using it With Their Children...

While the functions of this app may be suited for parents introducing visually impaired children to the online world, or VI parents monitoring their children’s activities, there are absolutely no mentions of this in the app description.

The app says nothing whatsoever about parents or children. It specifically mentions, several times, “Care-givers.” I’m giving the developers the benefit of the doubt by believing this was just a horrendous choice of phrasing, rather than an outright attempt to alienate the target audience. Nonetheless, their approach needs work. Getting me, as a VI person to give you money won’t happen by employing marginalizing language I hear all-too-often from well-intentioned, misguided non-PWDs.

#7 No offense intended

App Developer

Sheri, Dallas, KE7ZUM and Lindham,

I am the developer of the app and I certainly mean no offense to anyone. My son and I spent over a year developing this app for senior citizens who suffer from dementia and who can get into trouble online due to memory loss. In fact my 89 year old mom was the inspiration for the app because she was scammed several times online. My intention with the app is for caregivers to assist the elderly and enable them to have safe online experiences so they can say connected to friends and loved ones.

I actually never thought about the app being helpful to the visually impaired until one day someone from the Veteran's Administration emailed me and asked if the app could be made more compatible with Apple VoiceOver. She said she thought it would be helpful for some of the older blind vets she worked with who were not very computer savvy. Based on that input I worked with my son to improve the VoiceOver compatibility.

My apologies if the language I used was offensive. I admit I am not versed in the challenges of the VI community. I was encouraged to post here after an initial inquiry with the moderator who said it may be of interest to some community members. Perhaps someone would offer some help with how I should have worded my initial post. I put a link to the App Store and to our website both of which thoroughly explain the purpose, background and features of the app.

As for the cost, we barely make enough to keep our account open on the Apple app store. We put hundreds of hours into the app development in hopes it would help the elderly avoid online dangers and make email and the web a positive safe experience. I'm sure we will never recoup our time investment.

#8 I understand, and fair points.

Mr. Kuefler,

Thank you very much for addressing these concerns. Now that the context is clear, I fully understand the logic behind the word choice. For my part, I went off of the description I read on this page. If the context is explained anywhere else, I admittedly did not come across it.

I am a mid-20s VI person, and I have experienced folks talking to/treating me as if I need a caregiver based solely on my sight-status. Not to speak for all of BlindKind™, but I am far from the only one who has these experiences. So, my reaction was a tad visceral, and I apologize. As it reads now, there are mentions of blind/low-vision people, and caregivers/family members, which sent the following messages to me as a potential consumer:

A: “Blind/low-vision = you need a caregiver.” (which we already know you didn’t mean, so no biggie),
B: “It’s accessible with voiceover, but you might need a family member, (sighted person), to perform the initial setup.” (While this is likely untrue, I have dealt with PC and Voiceover issues that actually made this a reality, and it was a frustration).

As for rephrasing suggestions, I would specify the target demographic a bit more clearly. If I read you right, the primary mission of developing this app was to aide blind/VI senior citizens with online activities. That’s amazing, but the current description makes no references to seniors and/or populations dealing with secondary disabilities. Put that in there somewhere, and you should be right as rain. 

Again, thanks for taking the time to explain things. Sorry for the novel-length response, but I hope it helps at least somewhat.

#9 I immediately understood the points that the dev was making.

Guys, calm down. The dev made this app for people who may:
1. Be elderly and less technically-able.
2. Have a cognative disability which makes tech-concepts hard or impossible to grasp.
3. Have either numbers 1 or 2 plus a visual impairment.

Instead of immediately jumping to the conclusion that the dev is an idiot who's just trying to rip us off, why don't we step back and take another look at what he said? Granted, what he said could have been worded a little more clearly, but I did understand it.

Thanks,
Shersey

#10 Restricting use of apps

App Developer

@John,

Your initial concept makes sense, and I am grateful for your concern of loved ones, especially those who do not have the ability to care for themselves. You might want to consider how to deny access to the native Apple apps. For example, if you give someone in your target audience an IPad with your app installed on it, how will you prevent the user from using Safari or Mail? This not to say your app is useless, because I can see potential for it. However, it is something to consider since you are not putting the target audience into a black box.

#11 About restrictions.

I know you can restrict access to Safari within iOS itself. I'm not sure about male, though. I'd have to look that one up.

Thanks,
Shersey

#12 Restricting the iPad to one app

App Developer

Andy - The iPad has a built-in feature called Guided Access that allows you to limit the device to a single app. The ability to close the app is password protected, so the app user is not able to exit from the Simplicity Center app if the admin enables Guided Access. On the iPad, tap Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access to set up Guided Access. More detailed instructions appear in the Simplicity Center User Guide.

#13 My $0.02

Hi,

First of all: Great app idea. I'm sure that blind people struggling with technology might find this useful.

Second: The "critical" replies to this topic really rub me the wrong way.
I'd hope that people would be les inclined to throw out snap accusations. Just because an app might not be for you doesn't mean that it won't be useful in an other context (a conclusion you'd probably have reached if you bothered reading the entire app description). At least criticise constructively instead of being a jerk about it.

John: Imo, your wording is fine. Kudos for making your app accessible.

Best,
Malthe.

#14 Guided access

App Developer

@Jhon,

This makes sense and closes the problem of app restrictions. For rewording the description of the app, I would qualify your target audience a little more. Consider taking the life story that inspired you to create the app and rework it to target a general audience. This way, you can target people with these problems. Otherwise, good idea. Have you considered marketing to senior citizen communities such as senior centers?

#15 Critical reviews

App Developer

@Malthe,

It makes sense why most people discounted the developer and his app. The wording is not as clear as it could have. Fortunately, @Jhon stepped in and cleared up the confusion. At this point, he has defused the negative response. Chill and cool down.

#16 Thanks for your suggestions

App Developer

You have a very spirited and engaged community, which is truly wonderful. Thanks for your suggestions on how I could clarify the description and audience for the app. I have added an introduction to the post accordingly. If anyone in the AppleVis community tries the app and wants to provide feedback on how it works with VoiceOver, we would welcome your thoughts. You could use the contact form on the Simplicity Center website or email me directly from this contact information here.