AppleVis and Guide Dogs Accessiblitity
AppleVis – Bridging the accessibility gap
I’ll confess now that I’ve written user manuals for everything from the system that may generate your phone bill, to specialist software systems and guides for mobile phones. So, I’m more than full of admiration for any patient group or community that bites the bullet and translates user guides into something meaningful for ordinary people.
Accessing accessibility functions
With each new version of hardware and software, huge strides are often made in terms of accessibility. But – and it is a huge but – is the same investment being made in helping individuals know these features exist, and how to make the best of them?
So, it’s encouraging to see an example of a patient group stepping in to explain the accessibility features on an iPhone.
The UK charity Guide Dogs has created a series of videos. They walk and talk people through key accessibility features. These can be accessed through the charity’s website and their YouTube channel.
The videos are low-tech, as-live demonstrations, but that’s really key. This is because this can be matched by other patient groups. It doesn’t take a lot of money or resources, but time in planning out and rehearsing each video.
The video demonstrations guide users on where to find the accessibility features, and how to make the most of them. They layout the options for key functions such as typing, ranging from dictating. There are also different ways of using the keyboard with visual needs.
The challenge for any patient group is keeping this sort of resource up to date. Even small software upgrades can alter the way things work.
On the other hand, virtual patient communities can and do keep a close grasp on the latest technology developments.
For example, AppleVis describes itself as:
“a community powered website for blind and low vision users of Apple products”.
A lot of the content is aimed at the tech-savvy. There are also guides, blogs, forums and app reviews to help people. They are there to make the best use of the accessibility features in devices like iPhone and iPads.
For example, in releasing a step by step guide to explain changes to how to use VoiceOver on the iPad, the team rather politely and diplomatically explains why a guide is needed:
“When iPhone X was released, it introduced a few swipe gestures to replace the Home Button. With iOS 12, Apple has brought similar gestures to iPad. If you have VoiceOver enabled during the update, you will get an introduction to these gestures, with a note on how they work and how to use them. As this has never been done on iPad before, though, and as many users are accustomed to the way iOS has worked for years, I wanted to take the time to explain the changes in detail.” – AppleVis community
This really gets to the heart of the matter. Companies cannot always get the help message right for users, and so users have to guide each other. And as someone who has worked with software developers to translate what they say – users don’t always use the software in ways the developers intended, envisaged or even thought possible.