Despite a good track record of making their products and applications more accessible for vision, hearing and speech impaired individuals, as well as for those with physical disabilities, Apple is under pressure from the National Federation of the Blind over the lack of accessibility features built into applications on its App Store.
At a just-concluded convention in Orlando, Florida, the NFB passed a resolution to press Apple to spur developers to include more accessibility features in their mobile apps sold through the App Store.
Apple has a history with this group. In 2008, the NFB sued Apple over the lack of accessibility for disabled persons at Apple's iTunes Store. In the end, Apple paid a settlement of $250,000 and added accessibility improvements to iTunes. While the NFB is not ready to pursue legal action yet with their latest complaint about Apple, they will also not rule it out.
Over the last few years, Apple has added features such as Siri and VoiceOver that were welcomed by the disabled community. In general, the disabled are happy with Apple's hardware and operating system solutions for providing accessibility - they have now turned their attention to the mostly third party apps available through the App Store. Part of the problem with these third party apps, according to NFB members, is that they should be redesigned to take advantage of Siri and VoiceOver.
Although companies like Google also sell apps through Google Play for Android, The NFB believes Apple is the most appropriate target, given its overall dominance in the mobile app field.
Apple CEO Tim Cook is on record as supporting the company's further development of products for the disabled.
In a speech in 2013 at Auburn University, Cook said "People with disabilities often find themselves in a struggle to have their human dignity acknowledged, they frequently are left in the shadows of technological advancements that are a source of empowerment and attainment for others, but Apple's engineers push back against this unacceptable reality, they go to extraordinary lengths to make our products accessible to people with various disabilities from blindness and deafness to various muscular disorders."
Some of the accessibility features in Apple's iOS include text zooming, enlarging and bolding; changing background contrast on screens; the aforementioned VoiceOver, which speaks items on the screen, in a choice of dialects; the ability to draw letters instead of typing them; a camera that gives verbal instructions; vibration alerts, visual sign language and closed captions for the hearing impaired; the ability to recognize head movements through the camera to control an iOS device; and Assistive Touch which allows the user to create a customized set of gestures to control the device.