Matt Gemmell

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Accessibility Reviews for iOS apps

accessibility, business, development, user experience & work 2 min read

As a follow-up to my article on Accessibility for iPhone and iPad apps, I’m now offering a VoiceOver Accessibility Review service for iOS applications. You can read more about the services I offer (under my professional identity, Instinctive Code) at my services page.

My aim is to provide feedback in the form of a report, regarding both visually impaired users and also completely blind users; their needs are different, as you might imagine. The reviews aim not only to identify issues but also to provide concrete, implementation-focused recommendations on how to resolve them - because I think that’s the most practical, useful type of information for developers. Naturally, I also offer development services, to which I’ve gladly added accessibility support.

I’m very pleased with the response to the accessibility article. It’s been read more than 20,000 times, and I’ve had many poignant emails. It’s an incredibly important topic, and you can make a huge difference with a relatively small amount of effort.

The remainder of this post is a brief update to the personal anecdotes I shared in the article. I offer it as a curiosity, of which you can make what you will.

As I discussed in the article, I do have a vested interest in the subject of accessibility technology, and I freely admit that while my own principles were the main reason, I also wrote the article as some vague nod towards my own fate; an offering to our indifferent universe. It’s a motivation I won’t add to my business site, but I daresay it might be a factor as you consider accessibility support for your own software.

I’m absolutely not religious and I wouldn’t characterise myself as superstitious, but I do believe in the potential for connections between things (overt or otherwise), which logically must include connections we’re not yet consciously aware of. No naive and desperate anthropomorphisation of agency, but rather an implicit system effect. The silent, distributed god of grand structure and function; a secret deity for the scientist.

I spent most of yesterday at the eye hospital, having my retinas inspected and scanned on a scheduled follow-up appointment due to my condition having potentially worsened somewhat towards the end of last year. It’s been two years (almost to the day; within a week) since this all started, when a routine optician’s appointment became an opthalmology appointment which radically changed my assumptions about how my future life would be.

As usual, I saw an initial opthalmology nurse for a sight and reading test before having my pupils dilated and anaesthetised in preparation for scanning and seeing the ophthalmologist. I was given a new reading test card, and instructed to read the smallest print that was legible. Whilst expecting the usual nonsense about the history of Tower Bridge or such, I realised I was reading the “technical use” imprint in minuscule type along the top edge. The nurse laughed and discarded the test card, sending me back to the waiting room.

Shortly thereafter the scans were taken, and then repeated. They showed a complete reversal of not only the recent worsening but also the original change from that first appointment. The shadow that I’ve been able to blink into my field of vision for the past two years is gone; a claw that became a thunder cloud. Over the Christmas and New Year period, I hadn’t really noticed, but the retinal surface scan was stark and undeniable. The doctor gave me both the current scan and the previous one from late 2010 for comparison, and then took them back. We sat quietly for a moment.

Macular degeneration is no longer my diagnosis. Blindness is no longer thought to be in my future. Situations can always change, but at this time no further appointments are scheduled.

I continue my work in the field of software accessibility for visually impaired users. I’ve added suitable services to my professional offerings as of today, I’ve made accessibility a standard bullet-point on my software specifications both internally and for clients, and I have new open-source components in development which aim to assist.

Coincidences of magnitude happen every day. A piece of writing certainly cannot affect a medical condition. I continue my work somewhat humbled, and firmly resolved to avoid drawing unreasonable conclusions.

Meanwhile, in our indifferent universe, ripples spread.