Adi Kushnir is another iPhone-obsessed teen who likes to download apps and access the web.
But, there’s about a 50-50 chance that the Israeli teen will be able to use the cool new apps he downloads.
Kushnir has been blind since birth, and while Apple has made great strides in accessibility with its VoiceOver screen readers, companies and app developers still forget to bake in accessibility to their code so blind users like Kushnir can use them, he said in a phone call.
When Kushnir wanted to try Gett, the ride-hailing app that’s becoming popular in international markets, because “it sounded cool,” he found that the screen reader he uses couldn’t read anything in the app.
Kushnir reached out to the company — and surprisingly Gett responded.
“There are people who think blind people need special technology. No, we don’t,” Kushnir said in an interview with Business Insider. “We can use regular touchscreen phones today and the iPhone is a good example of that. Usually they just don’t pay attention to the accessibility APIs from Apple or anyone else and they skip it.”
In April, Gett brought Kushnir in to work with its team and to help revamp the app for both Android and iOS. Now if blind users enable the VoiceOver and TalkBack screen readers, they can use the full app’s functionality. Gett also updated their policies to explicitly allow dogs.
This wasn’t Kushnir’s first project with a tech company. The high-schooler taught himself how to code in his spare time and doesn’t have any plans to study computer science or become a developer after he graduates. He said he just wants to improve the world, which also includes the blind community.
“It’s not my mission to make the app accessible for these development companies,” Kushnir said. “It’s my mission to teach these companies how to make their app accessible from scratch. Not just that I make it accessible and the next version comes out and it breaks.”
Uber went though this in January 2015 when an update left blind users unable to use the VoiceOver screen reader. The screen reader technology is used by 60 per cent of the blind community on mobile, according to one survey by mobility group WebAIM. It took Uber until March to patch the bug.
While Kushnir is still helping Gett out in his spare time, he’s trying to teach other companies the same lesson. He is working with Freedom Scientific to make the Hebrew version of its screen reader for Windows.
“Basically, accessibility requires awareness, and developers are not aware of accessibility,” Kushnir said. “There are ways to make the application accessible with a couple of buttons. You should not rewrite an entire application.”