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Fresh Mud

A blog about living with FSH muscular dystrophy. Questions?

Post 16 of 45

Mobile phone accessibilty

Thursday 22nd October, 2020

I recently downgraded my phone from an Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max to their latest iPhone SE; the main reason for doing this was because I really missed the home button. Face ID, Apple’s way of allowing you to unlock your phone via facial recognition, works well and is consistent, but is a bit of a nightmare from an accessibility point of view; having to pick up my phone and lean forward so it can see my face was, more often than not, a bit of a pain, sometimes literally. Being able to unlock simply by resting my thumb or finger on the home button makes my life so much easier.

Besides the Face ID/Touch ID issues, I also found some of Apple’s accessibility option implementations problematic, especially Reachability. Reachability, when activated, brings the content on the screen lower, allowing you to reach controls and content that might otherwise be out of reach. On an iPhone with a home button this is achieved by double-tapping the home button, but on newer iPhones without a home button, Reachability is activated by swiping downwards on the bottom edge of the screen; this can be a problem because quite a few apps nowadays have options or preference screens that can be exited by swiping downwards, and while this can be convenient since there’s no need to hit a specific Done or similar control, it makes activating Reachability on non-home button iPhones difficult. More often than not I found myself accidentally exiting the section I was in rather than activating Reachability. And this wasn’t down to me swiping down too much, either – I tried many times, swiping from various positions on-screen – it seemed to simply be a case of the designers of iOS, the iPhone’s operating system, prioritising convenience over accessibility.

This is a real shame as there are many truly useful accessibility features in iOS, plenty of which I use on a daily basis, but Reachability is one I use by far the most. Still, moving to the iPhone SE with its home button has fixed the problem for now, but I do wonder how long it will be before Apple no longer sells iPhones with home buttons at all.