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Making accessibility part of your developer DNA

Yesterday, 12:00 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


Making accessibility a priority.

AltConf 2015 I gave a talk entitled, "Accessibility Is a Moral Imperative". It was a high-level talk about why it is so important for developers to keep accessibility in view while developing for the Mac, for iOS, and for the web. What the speech lacked was any technical details on how that can be accomplished. With this follow-up, my goal is to provide a non-technical guide to making accessibility a part of your developer DNA, whatever your app or website happens to be.

Don't get in the way of what's already there

The biggest challenge to accessibility in iOS is not coming up with new and interesting ways to make your app more accessible. Rather it is simply not getting in the way of the accessibility features that already come free with iOS. By now, all developers know that iOS is highly accessible by the blind and physically challenged. What you may not know is that every accessibility feature can be defeated by developers, and often is.

What you may not know is that every accessibility feature can be defeated by developers.

VoiceOver can be defeated by including hidden, junk text in your app. Flipboard is a prime culprit. When you read a Flipboard article, all you see is the text of the article. But when a blind person tries to use VoiceOver to read that same article, the text is garbled and loaded with intentional misspellings. The result is that the text is rendered unreadable by the blind.

Read Screen is a little known feature that allows you to swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers and have your iPhone or iPad start reading from whatever is visible at the top of the open window. In Safari, if you are reading a long article, you can scroll to a particular section, flick down with two fingers, and have the article read aloud from that point.

But that feature is easily defeated by the way web page elements are prioritized. Instead of reading what is visible at the top of the windows, this feature can be forced to read all the invisible menus, then the ads, and then the dozens of article listings scattered about the page. You could have ten minutes of reading before getting to the main article. Furthermore, rather than starting where you want to start, the reader is forced to the top of the page to read the developer's priority instead of yours. This amazing feature is rendered useless on many pages.

Barriers to accessibility

With so much free accessibility available to developers, you might wonder why so many apps defeat the built-in features. I don't believe for a moment that any developers are twirling their mustache, intentionally crippling accessibility features critical to those who need them. Instead, here is what I think may be going on behind the scenes:

1. The Path of least resistance

It is not that any developer is evil or lazy, it's that they're human. Humans tend to take the path of least resistance. If a developer can accomplish their goal in three steps, they will do it. But including an accessibility feature might require an additional five steps. Implementing dynamic type is a good example. Even if they think about the feature, they may deem the extra effort or time not to be worth it.

2. DRM

Developers who are trying to make a living with their content do not want to allow their work to be easily copyable, or easy to read without the surrounding ads on which their monetization is based. They protect their work by employing schemes that defeat copy/paste and ad-stripping. Unfortunately, I can't think of any ways to implement DRM that do not also adversely effect accessibility. Apparently, neither can they.

3. Highly stylized features

The Verge is one of the most heavily designed sites on the web. They do award-winning work that makes their content come to life in a modern, visual context. However, almost every design choice they make clashes with accessibility. This is common for design-centric sites and apps—magazine apps in particular.

In magazine apps, layout is king. It comes in ahead of all other considerations. Developers are so focused on how they want every line to look on the page, they never consider how the reader might like to see it.

Design-heavy apps do not tend to allow for easily resizable fonts, for example, or arrangeable page elements. It is the developer's way or the highway. There is no evil intent. They have a beautiful idea in mind. They just never considered its effect on accessibility.

Accessibility is NOT a technical issue

The lack of accessibility in apps is not because developers don't know how to implement the technical details. Developers do not need anyone to tell them how to include larger fonts, for example. They already know how to implement Text-to-Speech (TTS) and other accessibility options. If it were just a matter of technical details, accessibility would be easy. The challenge is getting developers to make accessibility a priority.

Does a media company want their content to be accessible, or want it protected from theft? If that is the choice before them, accessibility is going to lose almost every time. And it does.

If some accessibility features are difficult to implement and take time away from money-making aspects of a project, what is the pitch for getting devs to put the time and energy into dynamic type? As a former salesman, and a fan of dynamic type, I can't think of such a pitch.

It took the force of law to make businesses start adding wheelchair access, parking, and restrooms.

For designers, making their apps more accessible would mean giving up part of their app's identity. They are reluctant to provide anyone with the opportunity to break their format. To them, it is like pouring catsup on a fine steak.

These are not technical issues. At least, they are not solvable by current technology.

I am reminded of accessibility issues in physical spaces. It took the force of law to make businesses start adding wheelchair access, parking, and restrooms. For the most part, they did the least they legally had to do. To this day, braille or large print menus in restaurants are rare. They are not technically difficult to do. Every eating establishment, regardless of size, could have at least one Braille and large print menu tomorrow. They would rather spend $100,000 on design and layout than $100 to make a plain, easy to read list.

It is not about technology. It is, and always has been about incentive. That is why I focused my talk on accessibility being a moral imperative. At the end of the day, that is the only incentive that will move the needle in the right direction.

The path to accessibility

If you want to know how to better serve those with accessibility needs, I offer this general advice:

  • Don't get in the way of what is already there
  • Make all fonts user adjustable.
  • Make as many items speakable as possible
  • Test your app on people with special needs

Having already discussed the first one, let's take a brief look at the other three:


Sometimes, in content-heavy apps, developers will provide a few text sizes such as small, medium, and large. But those sizes are all relative. A person who does not see very well does not see those sizes as small, medium, and large. They see way too small, still too small, and nice try, but I'm still going to have to move on to another app. If you are not going to use dynamic type, at least make the fonts user adjustable. Regardless of how big you think the font is, if it is not big enough for the reader, it is not accessible.

Text-to-Speech (TTS)

I look forward to the day when everything on a screen is speakable. Text-to-Speech (TTS) is already here, and more than good enough. Imagine a lightweight script that could automatically select the text in a given section, and then read it aloud with one of the built-in voices just by tapping a Play button. Some websites already do this. There is no reason text-heavy apps can't do this as well. My understanding from developer friends is that all the APIs are freely available to devs if they wanted to go this route.

This type of solution would be ideal on the Apple Watch, as it has a small screen, necessitating small text. Having those snippets of text speakable would answer most accessibility prayers on that device.

Inclusive testing

Finally, test your apps on people with special needs. There are schools for the blind, and rehabilitation programs for the blind all over the country. Even if you do not know anyone personally, willing, blind and partially sighted testers are easy to find. (You can email me for more specifics.) The point is, unless you have tested your accessibility on someone that actually uses accessibility features, you have not actually tested your accessibility.

Accessibility for all

The good news is if you are asking how you can make your apps even more accessible, then you are already most of the way there. The special needs community is a rather forgiving lot. We reward effort, even those that are spectacular failures. Put forth the effort, and we will help you refine it.

In some ways, access is like justice: It has to be for all if it is to be fully realized.





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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor hacks and slashes its way...

Yesterday, 06:51 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Game of the Year Edition, the acclaimed action game that pits you against Sauron's army of orcs, has come to the Mac. Set between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings stories, Shadow of Mordor puts you in the boots of Talion, a soldier of Gondor.

On the night Sauron returns to Mordor after thousands of years of exile, Talion, his family, and his fellow soldiers are murdered atop the Black Gates. Mysteriously resurrected, Talion must piece together what happened that night with the aid of an elven wraith. While you'll slice your way through Sauron's army, developing rivalries with specific characters as you manipulate the orc chain of command, you'll learn how to dominate their minds as well, building an army of your own with which to face the Dark Lord an his servants.

The Game of the Year Edition of Shadow of Mordor packs in all of the DLC previously available for the game, and is available now on Steam for $24.99, though its normal price is $49.99. The game will come to the Mac App Store in early August.





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OS X 10.10.5 beta 2 now ready for developers

Yesterday, 10:52 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


The second beta of OS X 10.10.5, clocking in at build 14F19a, has been released to developers. It should be available from Apple's Mac Developer Resource Center soon, or through the Updates section of the Mac App Store for those that have the previous beta version installed.

Details are light on the contents of OS X 10.10.5. With OS X El Capitan coming later this year, however, expect a relatively minor release consisting primarily bug fixes and performance improvements.





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Apple Watch coming to Best Buy Canada on August 14

Yesterday, 09:15 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


It looks like Canadian Best Buy customers won't be left out in the cold for too long with Apple Watch availability. Canadian blog MobileSyrup reports that Best Buy stores in the great white north will begin carrying the Apple Watch on August 14 — just one week after their U.S. counterparts. From MobileSyrup:

Apple Watch will be available online and at Best Buy's retail stores across Canada. In addition, the big box retailer will allow customers to "feel and try-on" the Apple Watch at 20 stores across Canada (we don't have the full list of locations, but are working on it).

It was announced early this week that Best Buy would become the first third-party outlet to sell the Apple Watch, making it much easier for prospective buyers to get some hands-on time with the Watch if they don't live near an Apple Store.

So, if you live in Canada, it won't be too long before you'll be able to get a feel for the Apple Watch at a Best Buy store near you.

Source: MobileSyrup





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Refreshed Apple TV once again rumored for September

Yesterday, 08:58 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


As rumored back in June, the next iteration of the Apple TV is said to be on-track for a September debut. The upcoming set-top box, which is rumored to have a new design, as well as updated internal components such as an A8 processor, and a touchpad-equipped controller. The Apple TV will reportedly show itself at the same event as Apple's next iPhone models, according to BuzzFeed:

Sources familiar with Apple's plans tell BuzzFeed News that the company intends to announce its next-generation Apple TV in September, at the same event at which it typically unveils its new iPhones. The device itself is pretty much as we described it to you in March, sources say, but "more polished" after some additional tweaks.

Apple will also reportedly hold off on announcing its rumored TV service alongside the new hardware, opting instead to announces either late this year or early in 2016.

In addition to upgraded internal hardware, the upcoming version of the Apple TV has been said to feature support for third-party apps for the first time, along with support for voice control using Apple's Siri.

Source: BuzzFeed





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What's new on the App Store: Watch the PGA Tour live,...

Yesterday, 08:02 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


Every week, the App Store highlights some of the best new and updated apps. This week, we get ready for the PGA Tour, Angry Birds gets a sequel, and Apple showcases back-to-school apps.

New to the App Store this week, we have PGA Tour Live, which lets golf fans stream rounds live on their iPhone and iPad. There's also LiveText, a new messaging app for Yahoo. Keep track of the most important numbers in your life with Numerous. Disney has put out a new karaoke, this time for their new Descendants TV series.

Angry Birds 2, the sequel to Rovio's original smash hit, leads off the new games this week. Race the Sun is a new game that challenges you to race the Sun across the sky in an effort to keep your solar flyer aloft. Fight to prevent the rise of a Dragon in Tap Quest: Gate Keeper. Finally, classic RPG Legends of Grimrock has been updated, letting play on your iPhone.

It's once again back-to-school time, and Apple has assembled a collection of apps to help you shop for supplies. There are a number of retailer apps, like those from Target and Best Buy, that let you use Apple Pay. Apps like Schoola, zulily, and Macy's help you find the perfect first-day outfit. Finally, apps from stores like Walmart help you save money on your all of your back-to-school needs.

Check back next week for more new apps and games from the App Store.





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Free App of the Week: Embark on a quirky military conques...

Yesterday, 07:47 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


It's that time of the week again when another app goes free on the App Store for the next week. This week's free app of the week brings us the insanely fun and quirky artillery strategy game, Worms 3.

If you're unfamiliar with the Worms series of games, they task you with taking control of a team of militaristic worms as you battle other teams for supremacy. You have access to a number of weapons and different worm classes to take out the opposing team, and it takes a bit of strategy to come out on the winning side.

Worms 3 ratchets things up a notch from previous entries in the series by introducing a card mode. There are a number of cards you can either collect in-game or through in-app purchases, and they allow players to alter the start and the end of each turn — bringing an added dimension to the your strategy.

Worms 3 will be free on the App Store through August 6, so if you're interested in giving the game a shot, hit up the link below to embark on your conquest.





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Status Board 2.0 helps you keep track of what's impor...

Yesterday, 06:32 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


Status Board, the app from Panic that offers a visual way of tracking what's important to you, has received a long-awaited update to version 2.0. A free update for existing users, Status Board 2.0 builds on what came before by adding easier, more versatile customization.

You'll notice immediately that Status Board has a new look, more in line with iOS 8. The app has also added new panels, some of which can be purchased, and you can now create and swipe through multiple boards.

Here are all of the major changes you can expect in Status Board 2.0:

  • NEW UI. A new font, new icons, and a new, sleek, streamlined appearance.
  • MULTIPLE BOARDS. As many as you want! Swipe left or right to switch boards, or use our custom transitions and delays to cycle through them automatically.
    • Photo Album: automatically cycles through photos in an album of your choice
    • Countdown: to a date of your choice. (Or, count-up from a date that's already happened!)
    • Text: Easily specify any text on a board. Or, create labels.
  • SHARING. Share live links to boards, so the same board can be viewed across your entire organization and will update automatically when you make changes. Or, share your boards with your friends.
  • WALLPAPER. Nice new backgrounds beyond black. Or, add your own, and fully brand your board.
  • HD-OUT. Output specially-formatted HDTV-native boards. It's built-in and free for everyone.
  • LOTS MORE. Tons of fixes and improvements everywhere.

The Expansion Pack panels are available to Status Board 1.0 owners free of charge, and they should be unlocked automatically. You can grab Status Board 2.0 from the App Store now.





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How to add a song from Apple Music to iCloud Music Library

Yesterday, 06:30 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


Want to save a song you love in Apple Music to your iCloud Music Library? Here's how.

You can stream all day long from Apple Music, Beats 1, and Apple Music radio, but sometimes you want to save tracks that really resonate with you.

That's where iCloud Music Library comes in: It collects your music from your Mac and your Apple Music picks and stores it all in iCloud for you to access on any of your devices.

If you find a track you love and want to add to iCloud Music Library, here's how to go about it.

How to add a song from Apple Music to iCloud Music Library On your iPhone or iPad
  1. Open the Music app and find the song you want to add.
  2. Tap the More button (looks like •••) to the right of the music.

  3. Tap Add to My Music.
On your Mac
  1. Open the Music app and find the song you want to add.
  2. Mouse over the song and click the More button (looks like •••) to the right of the music.

  3. Select Add to My Music.
How to save it for offline play On your iPhone or iPad
  1. Launch the Music app from your Home screen.
  2. Go to the song or album you want to download.
  3. Tap the More button (looks like •••) to the right of the music.
  4. Tap on Make Available Offline.


The song(s) should immediately begin downloading to your device; you can see their progress by tapping the download bar at the top of the screen.

On your Mac
  1. Open iTunes.
  2. Go to the My Music tab.
  3. Click on the view type dropdown in the upper right corner of the screen.

  4. Select the Show Columns dropdown.
  5. Click on the iCloud Download option. A cloud icon should appear next to your other song sort types; next to each song, you'll either see no icon (which means the song is locally stored); a cloud icon with a downward arrow for songs stored in iCloud Music Library; or a cloud icon with a line through it (for PDFs and other iCloud-ineligible tracks).

  6. Click the cloud icon with a downward arrow to download the track in question.

Having trouble adding songs to iCloud Music Library? Let us know in the comments.





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Why you should use Apple Pay on the London Underground

Yesterday, 06:00 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


Now that HSBC finally turned on support for Apple Pay in the UK, I finally had the chance to use it on a recent two-day jaunt to the capital.

London has been accepting contactless payment on its transport network for some time now, with Apple Pay just the latest progression. Oyster, the pre-paid contactless card and contactless credit cards are alternative payment methods.

But if you can use Apple Pay, I think you really should.

First up there's the convenience factor. Tube users have been warned of card clash for a long time. You can only touch one card to the reader, of course, but if you have a debit card, credit card or two, or any other contactless payment cards, you can't just touch your wallet. You have to take out the card you want, touch it, put it back in your wallet, pull it out again at the other end, then finally return it before leaving the station.

OK, I hear you, it's not exactly inconvenient, but how about this. How many people with an iPhone are using it at the same time as travelling on the underground? Just tap, pay, carry on.

Apple Watch becomes an additional convenience should you own one of those, because you don't need to get anything out of a pocket or a bag.


Perhaps the biggest benefit I would recommend to people is the way Apple Pay tracks your transactions. Oyster Card users can see how much balance they have left on their cards and how much a journey cost every time they pass the barriers. Contactless card users do not see this. So to find out how much you spent you need to go to a bank, either online or in person. It takes a little while for the transactions to process, but you've got a very easy to understand, convenient record of your journeys right on your iPhone.

There's also, I believe, an added piece of mind with using your iPhone. I've lost debit and credit cards in the past, just through them falling out of a wallet, pocket, bag or something when I've been in a hurry and not noticed. With an iPhone (or I'd like to think at least) that's not going to happen so often. And if it does, your Apple Pay is still linked to your Touch ID. Your contactless card is not.

The experience as a whole is very good. After the initial gimmick phase of "ooh, I can use my phone now to get on a train," it soon becomes very useful. There are some areas though where it's not all super happy fun times. For example, if you wear an Apple Watch.


Disclaimer: I don't own an Apple Watch, but this point doesn't require that. The readers for the Underground are all on the right hand side of the gate. So if you wear your Apple Watch on your left wrist you're going to be reaching across and twisting your arm. Lots of people wear their watches on their left wrist. Not a deal breaker but something to consider heading into rush hour in Central London. Maybe put it on your right.

The other is the (albeit slight) delay where Touch ID is verifying Apple Pay so you can use it. It's easy to forget that you need to allow a second or two, plus opening Passbook. The best trick is to have Passbook open and use Touch ID as you approach the barrier. Then it's as quick as touching an Oyster or contactless credit card.

But a couple of minor annoyances aside, Apple Pay is a great way to get around London. Keep your wallet safely tucked away in your bag or pocket and better keep track of your transactions. I managed to visit London for two full days without using the debit card connected to my Apple Pay once. In a big city like this, you should definitely try to use it. You won't regret it.





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