On Friday, the president of the National Federation of the Blind clarified the group's recent resolution calling on Apple to collaborate with the group's efforts to expand accessibility among third party apps, noting a "good relationship" despite a "provocative and poorly reported article" on the subject released by Reuters.
Riccobono noted the resolution involved a longstanding debate within the group and that "the issues raised in the resolution are not new." However, he also noted that "some media reports made inaccurate assertions about the resolution, its content, and what actions the NFB will take to carry it out."
He continued, "Many of these inaccurate assertions have been fueled by a provocative and poorly reported article from the Reuters news service, linked here only for reference. Reuters has already been forced to correct the article because it reported, inaccurately, that the National Federation of the Blind once brought suit against Apple, Inc.
"This never happened, although a demand letter was sent regarding the accessibility of iTunes and iTunes U, and the Massachusetts Attorney General opened an investigation. Those actions resulted in a voluntary agreement with Apple that was a significant step in getting us the accessibility we experience today."
"Apple has gone far beyond"
AppleInsider originally reported on Reuters coverage of resolution, including the wire service's factual inaccuracy. Both the original report and the link to it by AppleInsider have since been corrected.
AppleInsider also detailed Apple's extensive history in providing accessibility features for Mac and iOS users, with features that still remain poorly implemented on Google's Android platform.
Riccobono's subsequent clarification noted many of the same points, stating, "In the wake of its commitment to making iTunes and iTunes U accessible to blind users, Apple has gone far beyond the scope of that original agreement and made the vast majority of its products accessible to the blind.
"It has done so by incorporating VoiceOver, a powerful screen reader, into the majority of its products, including its Mac computers, the Apple iPhone and iPad, and Apple TV. The native apps on these devices are accessible, and Apple has set forth developer guidelines that allow third-party apps to be made accessible."
Still more to do in collaborating with Apple, NFB says
"Many of the 1.2 million (and counting) apps available in the iOS app store have a high degree of accessibility for blind users. Many more, however, are not," Riccobono added.
"In addition, a recurring problem is that when apps are updated to new versions, blind users find that accessibility has been compromised, either deliberately or accidentally. With no way to revert to a previous version of the app, the blind user must simply hope that the developer rectifies the problem quickly.
"Apple has done more for accessibility than any other company to date" NFB president Mark Riccobono
"No one seriously disputes that these problems cause blind iPhone users a great deal of frustration, and that they sometimes result in real threats to a blind person's education, productivity, or employment. Smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices are increasingly replacing desktop computers in educational and employment settings, making access to apps intended for such devices not merely convenient but often essential."
"The National Federation of the Blind has been struggling with how to address these problems for years. Apple has done more for accessibility than any other company to date, and we have duly recognized this by presenting the company with at least two awards (including our annual Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award) and publicly praising it whenever the opportunity arises.
"We do not want to needlessly antagonize a company that has been such an outstanding accessibility champion. Nevertheless, inaccessible apps continue to proliferate, and blind users cannot update the apps on their iPhones without anxiety."
Riccobono continued by noting that the text of the NFB's resolution states, "this organization call upon Apple to work with the National Federation of the Blind to create and enforce policies, standards, and procedures to ensure the accessibility of all apps, and to ensure that accessibility is not lost when an app is updated."
"We have a good relationship with Apple"
"People have asserted that we have thrown Apple under the bus, and are making demands and threats, including the threat of litigation. But none of this is in the text of the resolution," Riccobono added. "As President of the National Federation of the Blind, the individual charged with seeing that this resolution is carried out, I understand the resolution to mean exactly what it says: we are calling upon Apple to work with us.
"We have a good relationship with Apple, and it is our desire for that relationship to continue" - NFB
"We are not issuing an ultimatum or a threat. We are not demanding anything. We are certainly not condemning Apple; there is much praise for the company in the many 'whereas' clauses that precede the 'resolved' clause. We have a good relationship with Apple, and it is our desire for that relationship to continue."
Riccobono also stated, "I recently spent time at Apple's headquarters talking about accessibility and critical concerns we have heard from blind people. We simply want Apple to continue to discuss with us what measures the company can put in place to ensure accessibility. The resolution does not state what measures we want, or demand that Apple implement any policy in particular," adding that the group's discussions with Apple are "similar to the dialog we want to continue to facilitate with all of the players in this industry, including Amazon, Google, and Microsoft."
He concluded, "The stakes are too high for the blind to settle for hit-or-miss accessibility. They are nothing less than whether the blind will be equal and included or isolated and excluded in a world driven by personal technology. Everyone agrees that the status quo is not acceptable. We must, and we will, try to change it."
NFB echo Stevie Wonder's praise for Apple's accessibility efforts
Nearly three years ago, Stevie Wonder gave a similar shoutout to Steve Jobs for Apple's pioneering efforts to make the iPhone and iPad fully accessible to disabled users.
"I want you all to give a hand to someone that you know whose health is very bad at this time," the performer stated on stage in late 2011. "His company took the challenge in making his technology accessible to everyone. In the spirit of caring and moving the world forward, Steve Jobs."
He added, "because there's nothing on the iPhone or iPad that you can do that I can't do. As a matter of fact, i can be talking to you, you can be looking at me, and I can be doing whatever I need to do and you don't even know what I'm doing!"
Apple is expanding its support for new accessibility features in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, including new APIs and tools to make it even easier for developers to add accessibility support in their third party apps, in addition to testing their implementations to make sure they work well for users who rely on accessibility features.