Friday, September 18, 2015

Accessibility Apps Need Us!

Illustration of an iPhone with icons of apps streaming out of its face
I spent the morning exploring the new Apple mobile device operating system, iOS 9. Among other improvements, the Maps app offers more information on businesses and attractions. Just click the label for, say, the Dunkin’ Donuts on Main Street, and you’ll see the address, phone number, price information, and both quotes and a direct link to Yelp reviews. I live in a small City and I don’t travel much, so I don’t expect to use the Maps app much myself, but it’s pretty cool.

It also got me wondering, for the eleventyith time, why we still don’t have a really comprehensive Internet-based database where disabled people can find out about the accessibility conditions at all kinds of businesses.

There are a few sites and apps designed specifically for accessibility ratings, like AXS Map and AbleRoad. Both build upon existing mapping and review services, Google Maps and Yelp respectively. This seems like the obvious way to document accessibility everywhere. The information can then serve as a guide to individual disabled people, and as an advocacy tool to encourage business to address their accessibility problems sooner rather than later.

The problem is that the system will only work if enough people add accessibility reviews, and that is up to us, the disability community. I don’t know how many disabled people regularly add accessibility reviews with mobile apps or websites, but I almost never hear anyone mention it, either in person or on disability blogs like this one. I could be all wrong, but it still feels like most of the disability community complains about accessibility, but relatively few of us help document the problem using tools that are more effective and easy to use than anything we’ve had before.

Isn’t this something we could all get behind? Can't we do this?