Accessibility Improvements Desired in MLB’s At Bat iPhone App

This year I opted to give MLB’s At Bat 11 iPhone app a try for live baseball game audio. The app works relatively well with VoiceOver on the iPhone and has been a nice way to stay in touch with my favorite teams.

 

While At Bat 11 has many positives, accessibility issues remain that range from the completely inaccessible to the inconvenient. It would be nice to see MLB address some of these before next season. I have shared this feedback with MLB according to instructions on their accessibility page.

 

Note that in the following descriptions, all names refer to names as read by VoiceOver on the iPhone. This is a first list of issues I’ve experienced that I’d like to see improved.

 

Team Schedules do Not Read With voiceOver

 

Steps To Reproduce

 

  1. Launch VoiceOver if it isn’t running.  This can be found on the iPhone under Settings:General:Accessibility:VoiceOver.  Note when VoiceOver is running, items that activate with a single touch require a double tap to activate.
  2. Launch At Bat.
  3. In the lower right corner of the app is a button VoiceOver announces as More.  Activate this.
  4. Choose teams from the resulting page.
  5. Choose a specific team.
  6. On the team page, choose schedule and results.
  7. Now touch anyplace on the schedule.

 

Result:

 

VoiceOver is not able to read any schedule detail from either list or month view. Further buttons that appear to advance the schedule are nameless.

 

Player Details Reported As Comma

 

Steps to Reproduce

 

  1. From the home screen of At Bat, activate the More button in the lower right of the screen.
  2. Activate teams on the resulting screen.
  3. Select a team. In my case I chose the Milwaukee Brewers.
  4. On the team page, select Roster.
  5. Now choose a player. In this example I chose Ryan Braun.
  6. Now note how the player details are read.

 

Results

 

Aside from headings that include the player’s name, number and position along with things like regular, situational splits and last 10, the entire page reads as nothing more than a series of commas. Certainly this should be improved so the actual details displayed are read by VoiceOver.

 

Data From Multiple Rows Read in Box Scores When Moving By Row

 

Steps to Reproduce

 

  1. Locate the box score for a game. In my example I’m using the box score from a May 22nd game between Milwaukee and Colorado chosen off the scoreboard from the opening page of At Bat.
  2. Locate the table that starts with the column 1 item of player. In my example I changed to details for the Brewers.
  3. Switch VoiceOver’s rotor setting to rows. This allows you to quickly move down a given column in the table.
  4. With VoiceOver focus on the word player, use the sweep down and sweep up gestures to move down the player column of the box score.

 

Results

 

In this scenario, focus is starting at row one column one of the table on the player column header. You would expect the first sweep down to move to row two column one and read the player name. What you should have read is Weeks, 2B. Instead what is read is Hart, C RF Weeks, 2B. In other words, the data from row three, column one and row two column 1 is combine with the data from row three read first and all data read as if it appeared in row two column 1. You can verify this by sweeping right once and then left once where you will find that the Weeks, 2B value is now read correctly.

 

This pattern of combining one row ahead of where you should be with the current row continues as you move down all rows in the table. Switch to the sweep up gesture and you start to hear the player details one row above the current row combined with the current row. So in either case you need to ignore the first player name you hear and know that it is the second name that reflects reality.

 

In my use of VoiceOver to read tables, the combining of data from multiple rows does not appear to be a common problem. So far MLB’s At Bat app is the only place I’ve experienced this.

 

Stadium Map With Nameless Buttons

 

Steps to Reproduce

 

  1. From the home screen of At Bat, activate the More button in the lower right of the screen.
  2. Choose the At the Ballpark option.
  3. Choose a stadium.
  4. From the stadium page, choose Stadium Map and Directory.

 

Results

 

The default here is some sort of map. All buttons on the map however are nameless and reported strictly as button by VoiceOver. Having more meaningful names would be a positive.

 

The list functionality in the directory feature is excellent. What is especially nice is that when you are at a game and you choose some of the directory entries, you get details about the entry based on the closest entry to you when there are multiple locations. For example when at a recent Mariners game, I was quickly able to locate the closest hotdog stand to my actual seat.

 

Conclusions

 

This is not the first time I’ve written about MLB and accessibility. I still believe the track record is mixed, and I am surprised to see issues like the comma for data on player pages issue I reported here present for an organization that has taken such a public stand on being committed to accessibility. That is simply something that is broken and easily discoverable with little knowledge of accessibility or VoiceOver in my opinion. It would be interesting to understand how MLB accessibility testing happens to see how issues like the comma issue fall through the cracks.

 

More Details on iPhone Accessibility

 

This is by no means comprehensive but here are a few references on iPhone and iOS accessibility.

 

Accessibility for iPhone and iPad apps by Matt Legend Gemmell – Worth a read just to understand accessibility independent of the operating system. The Myths section of this post is great.

Accessibility – iOS Technology Overview – Apple developer info on all things accessible in iOS.

iOS App Accessibility – Humanising Technology Blog – Another good overview of how VoiceOver works and some basics on iOS accessibility

 

Response From MLB

 

Update:

 

Today, May 23rd, I received a call from one of MLB’s contacts in accessibility in response to an email I sent that detailed all the issues in this blog post. In that phone call MLB indicated they could reproduce all the issues I described here. The contact indicated that it was too late to address any of the issues for the next release of MLB’s At Bat app due out shortly. I asked when we might see any of these issues addressed and was told that MLB was planning a second update shortly before the 2011 MLB All-Star game that would be the first opportunity to address these issues.

 

I consider today’s response a step in the right direction. Admittedly I have no idea whether the issues will be fixed or not and if they are fixed when that might be beyond what I was told today. But acknowledging the issues are present to me is a start.

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