Phone App Developers, lend me your ears!

iOS developers are enabling users to get more and more out of their iPhones & iPads. But I think developers are missing one important thing that could make life easier for thousands of users. I’m not exaggerating.

I have a particular bee in my bonnet when it comes to accessibility, my wife is registered blind and I am constantly frustrated when she is unable see things (like text on a screen) especially when I know that this is avoidable. It was this frustration that prompted me to email Steve Jobs about the iPhone’s SMS functionality last year. True to his word users can now change the font size for those 2 apps.

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What I don’t understand is why there is no way to change font size system wide, or why app developers don’t provide that facility.

Yes I know that you can switch on zooming, but honestly – have you tried using zooming on a phone? My wife uses screen magnifying software at work, so she’s used to that – but she can’t get on with the iPhone implementation & I can understand why. It’s awful. There’s also Voiceover. This must be a massive boon for people with incredibly poor eyesight but for most users it’s not appropriate, who wants their texts or other private data read so that others can hear it?

I’m sure many iOS developers have come from a web background & will be familiar with WCAG. As far as I know there’s no similar guideline for developing accessible apps, but a developers are still obliged to ensure that their apps comply with disability discrimination legislation such as the UK’s Disabaility Discrimination Act. The act says that service providers (and as a developer that’s you) must “make reasonable adjustments to ensure blind and partially sighted people can access your service”.

So for a moment, let’s just pretend that WCAG does apply to smartphone apps and look at guideline 1.4.4 1.4.4 Resize text:Except for captions and images of text, text can be resized without assistive technology up to 200 percent without loss of content or functionality. (Level AA) That seems like a reasonable aim to me.

I have spoken to a couple of developers about this, the general consensus seems to be “I’m not sure if that’s possible” or “it would be an awful lot of work for not much benefit”. This makes me sad. Not being an iOS developer myself, I don’t know if it would be possible for someone to write a text resizing library that they could open source? If it is possible, think of all the people that could be helped by including that in apps. After all, it’s not jst cronicly badly sighted people that struggle with small text, many older & long sighted people do to.

I’d be really interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this, especially from the Dev community.