Labeling iDevice Buttons to Expand App AccessibilityDecember 21st, 2011
Lured in by technology once again, I purchased an iPhone 4S before my trip to ATIA Chicago in November. Surrounded by “iPhone huggers” there, I joked that it was really an iPhone convention. Like Dr. Seuss’ Sneetches, I now had a star on my belly. To stay in the club, I proceeded to download all the cool apps that my coworkers were using. Then came the big, yet short-lived, disappointment – many apps are only partially accessible for low vision use.
What do I mean by that? In many cases, the app developer has failed to properly name all of the buttons that appear in the app. So when you place your finger on a button, instead of VoiceOver identifying the actual purpose of the button, it will simply say “Button”. For example, in the app called “Places”, I cannot select the “Coffee” button versus the “Bars” button because VoiceOver does not distinguish between the two – they’re both read aloud as “button”. But now with iOS 5, there is a way to get around this problem – you can create your own custom labels – and it’s easy!
Here’s how you do it:
- With VoiceOver on, single tap on the button you wish to label.
- Perform a two-finger double tap and hold (leave your fingers down on the 2nd tap) anywhere on the screen.
- You’ll hear three dings and a “Label Element” edit box appears.
- Type in your custom label using the onscreen keyboard or a Bluetooth keyboard.
Or, on the iPhone 4S, you can dictate instead of typing! Here’s how that works:
- Make sure Siri is on in Settings > General > Siri.
- Select the Dictate button, which is just to the left of the spacebar on the onscreen keyboard. Wait for the hint to tell you what to do – it will say “Double tap to start dictation – two finger double tap when finished”.
- So, do as it says – one-finger double tap, then speak the name of your custom label, for example, “Coffee”.
- Two finger double tap to stop dictating.
- It will say “inserted Coffee”.
- Select “Save” then double tap.
Derek and I created a video to show you just how easy the process is. Watch it below or go onto YouTube and watch it there:
The ability to create custom labels has provided consumers who are visually impaired with a very empowering tool to use when they don’t want to wait for the developers to update the app. Since I have carefully labeled the buttons in my GPS Drive app, I should be able to find my way home, instead of the nearest airport (that would be a long walk) and I should expect to find a cup of coffee on the way instead of being directed to the closest bar. If that happened, I would no longer have a technical excuse for the “innocent” mistake.
Sorry for my lack of knowledge about Android but I have heard that they have a similar way to label buttons as well. If you need help or have questions about your iDevice’s accessibility, email firstname.lastname@example.org.