Despite Report, National Federation of the Blind Says It Stands By Apple

The group’s president clarified a new resolution made at NFB’s annual convention last week to seek to work with Apple to create policies and standards that would enforce accessibility in the development of mobile applications.

Contrary to a recent news report, the National Federation of the Blind is not threatening tech giant Apple with litigation for failing to make its products accessible for deaf and blind people.

The stakes are too high for the blind to settle for hit-or-miss accessibility.

“We simply want Apple to continue to discuss with us what measures the company can put in place to ensure accessibility,” wrote NFB President Mark A. Riccobono in a blog post explaining a new resolution passed at the group’s annual meeting last week. The resolution in question (Resolution 2014-12) called on Apple to further its efforts to promote accessibility of mobile applications. It did not, Riccobono added, threaten or disparage the tech company, as at least one news report from Reuters implied:

“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. 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 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.”

In an initial report of the NFB resolution, the Reuters article also stated that NFB won a 2008 lawsuit against Apple to make its media library, iTunes, more accessible. The article was later corrected to state that there was no lawsuit and that Apple and NFB had reached an agreement in which Apple said it would make iTunes more user-friendly by adding captions and other accessibility options.

Apple’s free screen-reader program, VoiceOver, released in 2011, has provided many with nonvisual access to Apple’s products as well as hundreds of thousands of applications, NFB acknowledged in its resolution. Despite this, many apps are still not accessible to VoiceOver users because of faulty design and layouts. There are currently no policies in place to ensure that accessibility is maintained when new versions of apps are released, the group said.

And that is where NFB is asking Apple to do more—to work with NFB to create and enforce policies, standards, and procedures that would make all apps accessible to VoiceOver users.

“The stakes are too high for the blind to settle for hit-or-miss accessibility,” Riccobono wrote in his post. “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.”

(photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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