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Apple spotlights accessibility, featuring iOS apps using its award-winning VoiceOver technology

Apple is featuring popular iOS App Store titles making use of the company's VoiceOver screen reader technology, in celebration of its receipt of the Helen Keller Achievement Award from the American Foundation for the Blind for its efforts in making products accessible to everyone.

Apple is highlighting a series of popular apps that "deliver a great VoiceOver experience" in iTunes, including BlindSquare, WorkFlow, YouTube, Twitterrific, Instapaper, Flipboard, WhatsApp, Shazam, Djay 2, BBC News, Skype, Dropbox, Ariadne GPS and the company's own iBooks, Pages, Keynote and Numbers.

VoiceOver is an interactive screen reader Apple began bundling on its iPods, iOS devices and Macs for free, starting with OS X 10.4 Tiger in 2004, followed by support included in iOS for the 2009 iPhone 3GS and various iPod models including the iPod nano released the same year.

Earlier this year, Apple also presented, "Apple Watch and Accessibility," a free podcast discussing the assistive technologies and features incorporated into the design of Apple Watch.

The AFB previously recognized Apple with an Access Award in 2009 for its pioneering engineering work to make its products accessible to everyone. This year, its President & CEO Carl R. Augusto noted, "We are honoring accomplished individuals and companies for their success in improving quality of life for people with vision loss either through groundbreaking innovation or inspirational achievement that changes perceptions about what it means to be visually impaired."

Apple was the only tech company awarded by the AFB; other recipients of the award include an actor portraying the blind superhero Daredevil, a visually impaired musician and a pharmaceutical firm that introduced a new treatment for the circadian rhythm disorder.

VoiceOver Accessibility

Accessibility-Gate, 2014

Last summer, Christina Farr of Reuters published an article claiming that "Apple hasn't been a steady champion" in accessibility, including a selective quote of Apple's chief executive Tim Cook that implied that Apple was sort of indifferent to the needs of its disabled users.

In reality however, Apple has actually pushed accessibility features far ahead of its competitors, particularly in stark contrast to Google's Android. "Apple has done more for accessibility than any other company to date"

Mark A. Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, castigated the media's attacks on Apple's accessibility work as "inaccurate assertions [that] have been fueled by a provocative and poorly reported article from the Reuters news service."

Riccobono also noted that beyond "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."

He added, "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."

Stevie Wonder praised Steve Jobs for Apple's accessibility efforts

In September 2011, blind from birth performer Stevie Wonder called out Steve Jobs during a show, telling his audience, "I want you all to give a hand to someone that you know whose health is very bad at this time. 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!"