My Accessibility Journey with Quicken 2015

I spend a significant part of my professional and personal life working in the area of software accessibility. I’m pretty familiar with all the positives and negatives of various operating systems, strategies for accessibility on those environments and the various tricks and techniques one can sometimes try to work around challenges when they come up. Then too, unfortunately, there are times I’m reminded of the consequences when a solution does not exist.


I’ve been a long time user of Quicken for personal financial management. Entries in my current use of the program go back more than 15 years. And yet every three years or so there’s been this race I play against the current level of accessibility of whatever version of Quicken I’m forced to update to and my ability to resolve issues to the point of continuing to be able to use the program. If you want to use the automatic transaction download features of the software, most, if not all, financial institutions cut off support for older versions of Quicken at versions older than three years from the current year. Looking back through my software archives, I find copies of Quicken I purchased in 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012 and most recently 2015.


It has been quite some time in my experience that Quicken has worked with ease for me and I suspect others who use screen reading software. But I’m pretty comfortable with all the advanced features of screen readers so have managed to keep things working throughout the years to the point that I felt the trouble in using the software was offset by the benefits. The automatic download of financial transactions, categorization, reporting and investment tracking all combined into a single app have made the program worth continuing to try to keep using for me. I know I can do much of this myself in programs such as Excel and I do some of this today. Still Quicken has, until now, been at the cornerstone of what I’ve used, even if more and more of my analysis and such has moved to Excel.


Earlier this year I knew the clock was ticking on the version of Quicken 2012 I had been using to support automatic transaction download. I took the plunge and purchased Quicken 2015 a few months ago. My luck with the program wasn’t good when I first tried to use it. But the deadline hadn’t quite hit for the older version to stop working so I kept trying different techniques without any luck.


But after several hours invested over the last few days really trying to make things work and the fact that automatic transaction downloads stopped working about 85 days ago for me, I’m now faced with the reality that my time with Quicken is about to come to an abrupt end. Manual transaction entry hasn’t worked right for several years with all of the screen readers I use which is why the automatic download has become so critical and most financial sites only allow 90 days of data download. To be clear this is only one of the challenges and for what I need to do not nearly enough of Quicken 2015 works right with the screen readers I use and I use pretty much all that exist.


In the grand scheme of challenges, I recognize whether I can use Quicken or not is not high on the list. I write about it here mostly I suspect as a bit of catharsis because at an emotional level there is some level of frustration when an environment you’ve been using stops working. And with so much of my time spent in the accessibility space, I have no illusions about some magic behind the curtain. I understand about development priorities from all the players involved. It is just not fun to be on the wrong side of where the line gets drawn and this still happens far too often when it comes to accessibility.

Safeway Updates iOS Delivery App with VoiceOver Improvements

It is nice to see that Safeway has updated their iOS app for online shopping with an improved VoiceOver experience. I’m not a regular user of this app but as luck would have it, I happened to use it over the weekend before the update. So it was nice to read the description of what’s new for the 2.6 update saying, “Enhanced usability and performance for users of VoiceOver and other built-in iOS accessibility features.”


Browsing the virtual shopping isles and other product areas seems much improved. Each product is now a heading, meaning you can use VoiceOver’s navigation by heading feature to jump from product to product. I do wish the headings were put on the entries in the list where the price for the product was given as that would have made browsing even faster. As it stands now, you must move to the product heading and then back two objects to read the same product name that includes a price when using VoiceOver object by object navigation.


For example, when on a product listing page, you can set VoiceOver to heading navigation and step from product to product with swipes up or down. When on a product of interest, issue a swipe left gesture twice and you’ll be on the same product but will hear the price and other details. One swipe right and you are on a button for more information about the product. A second swipe right and you are back on the heading for that product. Subsequent swipes right put you on buttons for decreasing the number of a given product you want to buy, a text box for the same quantity info and another button for increasing the amount. One last swipe right and you are on an Add button for putting the product in your virtual shopping cart.


The process for selecting a delivery time also seems much improved when using VoiceOver. My recollection from my weekend use was that you had to use a complicated grid where it wasn’t very easy to identify available delivery times. Again I’m not a regular user of the app but had used it a few times before the weekend. With the update, selecting a delivery time has been separated into three different controls for choosing the day, time and number of hours in the delivery window. It seems much easier to navigate.


In experimenting with the app a bit, I also noticed more progress messages being read automatically by VoiceOver. This included hearing that item lists were downloading when I selected a given isle and such.


In general this seems like some good attention to making this app work better with VoiceOver was given. I’m sure I’ll use it more frequently now because of the ease of use improvements and because of major pricing changes coming to Amazon Fresh in the Seattle area.

Eight Job Openings on Microsoft CSS Accessibility Team

The Customer Services and Support (CSS) team I work for at Microsoft is growing with several exciting opportunities now available. The team has eight new positions available across the three areas where the team has a charter and focus. This includes three spaces: Disability & Accessibility, Online Safety, and Privacy.  The team is focused on driving innovation that will enable all customers with Microsoft services and devices. The Disability Answer Desk is one such innovation, providing a rich support experience for all our customers.  It came from small beginnings with a pilot 18 months ago, and is now handling over 1000 issues a month.  It’s been received well (check out this from the AFB), and we’re excited to look at how we can expand and drive to reach more customers globally.  Subject Matter expertise in Disability and Accessibility is a huge asset to roles in this team: the more we can understand our customers, the more empathy we have to designing the right experience!  The team is also hiring an Accessibility expert to help manage broad spanning programs across a division of 50K folks.”


If you are interested in any of the roles, please follow the directions on the external link and feel free to share this information to any individuals or locations that may be interested.



Role and Team

External Link


Disability Answer Desk.  Senior Supportability Manager



Disability Answer Desk.  Support Escalation Engineer




Disability Answer Desk.  Business Program Manager (Readiness)




Disability Answer Desk.  Senior Technical Advisor



SMSG Accessibility.  Director Business Programs




Service Delivery Manager (works across Accessibility, Online Safety and Privacy)




Privacy.  Senior Technical Advisor


Privacy.  Senior Supportability Manager



The NFL Needs to Learn From the MLB When It Comes to Accessibility

I’ve written a time or two about the accessibility challenges with MLB and that league’s internet offerings. To the credit of the various advocates who have worked with MLB to improve things, MLB has resolved the vast majority of issues around the accessibility of what they offer on the web and in various apps. In many ways MLB could be a model of how to handle accessibility for live sports and screen readers.


Unfortunately like much of accessibility, it seems we have to go over the same ground time and time again. This time it is with the NFL and many of their offerings. As just one example, the NFL now has an iOS app that could serve as a model of what developers can do wrong for app accessibility. Nameless controls, poor support for VoiceOver and more. Even the NLF’s main mobile app page is a dizzying array of accessibility challenges. Thus far emails and phone calls to various contacts I can locate for the NFL have gone unanswered. It is really unfortunate that it takes this much effort to make progress but I guess it is time to crank things up a bit and try to get some attention from the NFL around accessibility.

Sad State of Technology Press and Accessibility

Any study of the journalism business will show that even today by and large the media does not understand disability or accessibility. Typically we get stories on one of the two ends of the spectrum of possibilities. Either stories talk about everything being horrific or they tout things that are basics that people with disabilities accomplish as being something magically fantastic. And that’s assuming you get coverage at all.


The lack of coverage is I suppose a bit frustrating to me on a personal level at various times. Last year I found it interesting to see how the work Apple did around accessibility in their Maps app getting absolutely no coverage in the mainstream tech press. And now the same tech press is trumpeting improved versions of several Yahoo mobile apps as a sign of rebirth at the company with no reference to the reversal in accessibility for many of these same apps. As an example, the updated fantasy football app has become all but unusable on the iOS platform with Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader.


I hold no illusions here. I know how the news business works and recognize that accessibility isn’t something viewed as important enough to cover, let alone understand, by most of the press. It is though I suppose a bitter pill to swallow at times to recognize where one does and does not stand within the mainstream universe.

Amazon Corrects Accessibility Regressions in Amazon Fresh App

Recently I wrote about an update to the Amazon Fresh app that was supposed to make the app more accessible but actually did the reverse. A little more than a week ago, Amazon released a second update that had the actual accessibility fixes I suspect were supposed to be present with the first update. The app now works better than ever with VoiceOver. Amazon Fresh currently only delivers groceries in the Seattle area but if you are in the delivery area, the service is worth a try.


The improvements involved giving correct names to multiple controls in the app. It makes shopping significantly faster.

Amazon Fresh iOS Update Has Accessibility Issues

Amazon Fresh offers grocery delivery in the Seattle area. One of the methods you can use to place orders is with an iOS app. The app was updated today listing accessibility improvements as one of the items addressed in the update.

Something must have gone wrong because the app actually introduces some critical accessibility problems that make it tough to use the app at all. Most notably, in an area where you shop by isle names, the isle names went from perfectly readable with VoiceOver to generic names of “isle title”.

Similarly, when you pick an isle, all the products listed now get the name of “item title, item price”. Ironically the price per ounce and such actually reads correctly as a number.

I have reported these issues to Amazon. If I hear back I’ll update things on the blog.

Uber iOS update Makes Service Worth Considering When Using VoiceOver

Uber bills itself as “everyone’s private driver”. I’m sure the marketing folks behind the service can give a full description about what’s supposed to be great about the service. To me, I think of it as a service trying to merge technology with taxis and improve on the situation.

The basic premise behind Uber is that you use your smart phone or a web site to request a driver and get notifications about how far away the driver is, ratings from other users about the driver, automatic credit card billing for the ride and such. As someone who has a need to take a cab from time to time, I was intrigued when I first read about the service and that it was available in the Seattle area. This was met with disappointment when I first tried the Uber app because it failed miserably with VoiceOver.

To Uber’s credit they recently updated the app to improve the VoiceOver experience and I can say that the app now works quite well with VoiceOver.

I’ve had the opportunity to try Uber for rides a few times recently and can say that if the service is available in your city it is worth exploring.

To be clear, Uber is more expensive than a traditional taxi. Rates differ in each city but as an example in King county Washington, where Seattle is located, taxi rates are as far as I know today $2.50 to get in a cab and $2.70 per mile. For comparison, Uber charges $7 to get a car, $3.75 per mile with a $12 minimum charge.

Although my sample size is small, I will say that the Uber estimates about driver arrival times so far have been accurate to within a minute on every ride I’ve scheduled. In the more than 12 years I’ve taken traditional cabs in Seattle, estimates about arrival time, let alone actually getting a cab in the areas where I travel, has always been at best an adventure. I know my last experience involved more than a 60 minute wait and at least three calls to the cab company.

For me Uber won’t replace all my traditional taxi use. As I mentioned, the price is clearly higher. Yes you can make the argument that you get what you pay for but I won’t necessarily always need the level of service Uber offers. Still I’ll give the company credit for addressing the VoiceOver and am fortunate to be in a position to support the accessibility efforts with my business from time to time.

I mention Uber to blog readers who may need another transit option to explore. If Uber is in your city, it is worth exploring.

Paciello Group Conducting Survey on Mobile Accessibility

The Paciello Group, who do a variety of work in the accessibility arena, are conducting a survey on mobile accessibility. Details on the survey page indicate that the results will be publicly available in a tabulated format and are intended to assist people in understanding where to direct focus around mobile accessibility.

The survey asks 15 questions around many of the basics you might expect. Topics covered include, devices used, operating systems used, sources for learning about accessible mobile apps and pages and some high level biographical information. The survey takes just a few minutes to complete so consider filling it out.

Why I Dislike the Term A11y to Represent Accessibility

I am sure that a campaign to eliminate the use of the term “a11y” is a campaign I’d lose, were I even to try and start it, but after reading the term “A11y” so many times in the accessibility world, I just have to say that I still think it is not the best way to represent accessibility to the broader community. I’m someone who’s been in and around the accessibility business for more than 25 years now and when this term first started cropping up a few years ago, I had to ask what it meant. For those who are curious, the 11 in the a11y is meant to signify the 11 letters between the letters a and y in the word accessibility It is my understanding that this shorthand originated in the twitter world, where there is the 140 character limit.


I understand the practical desire to save characters and all but for me there is just something off-putting about this shorthand. Unless you are in the accessibility world, I daresay you have no idea what a11y means even today. I also understand each community develops jargon and terminology but part of the accessibility message is about reaching out to those who don’t understand what’s involved in the space. That may be the technical of how to do accessibility. It may be raising awareness that people with disabilities are not defined by our disabilities. I just find the term accessibility more welcoming.


I’m also a sports fan and I don’t see the football community adopting the term ff6l or the baseball community using b6l to represent football and baseball respectively as examples.


I recognize others may have different opinions and this short commentary likely falls in the category of the proverbial tree falling in the forest and that old question about it making sound if no one hears but at least here accessibility is likely to be the term I continue to use.


What’s your opinion? If you use the term a11y to represent accessibility, why do you do so? Do you think people outside the accessibility world understand what the term means?