Hurry Apple! Blind Users Matter!

Cover of Planet of the Blind....man and dog....

Not long ago I dug deep in my pockets and bought a brand new MacBook Pro computer. Lucky me to have had enough spare change. One should acknowledge privilege. The machine in question was quite expensive as it has Apple’s newfangled M1 chips which are fast. The new Macs are magnificent.

Why then do I feel cheated? Ah Grasshopper! The new Mac has the latest operating system called “Monterey” and somehow Apple’s engineers have rolled out a product that is flawed and I mean badly so for it’s remarkably blind unfriendly. Where formerly the onboard screen reader called “VoiceOver” could read Epub books it now gasps, gargles, loses its path, and gives up in despair.

This is a dreadful problem. As a blind reader who relies on accessible technologies I’m genuinely distressed. I’ve talked via phone with several Apple tech representatives and I’ve been assured that they’re working on it. I believe them. I’m sure they are.

The question I have is how could they roll out a software upgrade that ruins the fundamental experience of Mac ownership for the blind?

The answer lies in the disconnect between Silicon Valley engineers and the non-normative end user.You don’t have to be blind to know this. The algorithms that run facial recognition devices are designed with white Anglo Saxon male bodies in mind. Airport screening machines set off alarms when gender non-conforming travelers pass through. In other words, the non-normative body remains an afterthought in design cultures.

We don’t really know how many blind citizens there are in the United States and just so, we’ve no clear idea about global numbers. It’s not a material issue. If you promise your product is accessible then stand by it. Don’t run rough shod over accessibility because “those folks” can be taken care of later.

Hurry Apple. I’m holding a $3000 quasi functioning brick in my hands.

Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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