Apple Mac App Store suffers major accessibility problems


I have written articles over the years praising Apple for taking accessibility very seriously and enthusing on how it has been integrated into Apple products to the benefit of people with disabilities but also to the benefit of other users.

I recently wrote about the new Mac App store and how its ease of use made it more accessible. However I have just discovered a major accessibility issue with the store. I was looking at an app that I might want to buy. In the write up it said ‘to see a video go to www….’. I tried clicking on the URL and that did nothing, I then tried copying the URL to discover that I could not mark or copy it. I realised that the text I was looking at was just an image. I confirmed this by trying to use VoiceOver (the built in screen reader) and it did not read any of the text. Hence the app store is inaccessible to any blind and many vision impaired users.

I will stick to my comments in my original article on the store because it is certainly a benefit to users who can see but have limited ability to use physical input devices.

But I am surprised and disappointed that Apple have taken their eye off the accessibility ball. It shows that ‘design for all’ processes are still not fully imbedded into the product development ethos of the company. The lack of VoiceOver support cannot have been a deliberate decision—it can only imply that the app store developers just did not have accessibility as a consideration.

Apple development has shown that it can take take accessibility very seriously and come up with excellent integrated solutions, what needs to happen now is that accessibility has to be baked into the development process.

Having chastised Apple I realise that everyone needs to learn this lesson. Can I or you, my reader, put their hand on their heart and say this could not happen in my organisation? Take another look and ensure that accessibility is built in to the checklists, processes and sign-offs that all product developments, and product purchase, have to go through.

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Peter is Practice Leader (Accessibility & Usability) at Bloor Research. Peter started in IT as a sandwich student in 1966 with IBM and continued to work for them until 2003. In a company then known especially for its hardware Peter saw the importance of software and especially transactional processing. He installed the first IMS online system in the UK as well as early versions of DB2. In 2004 his experience with some disabled friends and a report by the Disabilities Rights Commission prompted him to start research into IT accessibility for the disabled. Recognising the growing importance of this area he set up Bloor's Usability and Accessibility practice.