Dear Tim Cook:
So okay, I’m a Mac user and I don’t know how many of us there really are—I’m guessing 20,000. Blindness is a “small incidence” disability in the US and though our band is relatively tiny its growing rapidly. Many blind people have switched to your products since Apple introduced its VoiceOver speech synthesis software in 2005. All of this is to the good. The stability of the Mac with its built in accessibility features makes it a natural choice for the blind in particular but also for all people with disabilities.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered last week that the latest update to Mavericks, the new Mac operating system wiped out the ability of my Mac to read iBooks. Boink. No more reading with the Mac.
At first I thought the problem was a corrupted download. So I downloaded another book. No go. I opened dozens of books and none of them worked. Rather than reading pages aloud, my VoiceOver speech synthesizer simply said, “text text text”—rather plaintively—as if the software was as mystified as I was. “At any moment,” I thought, “its going to say I’m sorry this looks like gibberish to me!”
Mr. Cook, the problem is not merely technical. I’m sure Apple can fix this. A customer relations representative has promised me there’s a fix in the works. I suspect he’s right. Apple has made a big commitment to accessibility. I trust repairs are on the way.
The larger difficulty is that no one can say when my books will be readable again and that’s a breakdown of Apple’s commitment to my particular brand of diversity. I need my books. I speak for lots of blind people who have “made the leap” and placed their trust in the Mac.
Please take the time to write to the blind in this instance. Tell us what we need to know. We’re a small group but we’re growing—not merely because blind people are on the rise (though we are, owing to the aging of the baby boomers) but because your products are proving important and a true commitment to accessibility is something more than a matter of technical skill. If our numbers were larger the folks in Cupertino would have issued statements about this snafu.
Let me put it this way: blindness isn’t hard; guessing when our solution will come, that’s a different thing.