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Eyes on Apple Music's accessibility issues

Steven Aquino | Feb. 3, 2016
Apple Music rocks—but it's also hard on the eyes of the visually impaired, explains Steven Aquino.

Small text, big problem

Compounding the complexities of its user interface, Apple Music has another problem: small fonts and iconography. There are places all over Apple Music where I wish text would be bigger and more legible.

One example is editors’ notes. I often browse the For You section, as I think it does a great job at recommending music and compiling playlists. The problem is that the notes that preface a playlist or album are set in a font that’s way too small to read comfortably. Alas, pinch-to-zoom doesn’t work anywhere in Apple Music, so I’m unable to read these notes without squinting mightily.

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The editors’ notes in the For You tab are unreadable for me. 

I realize I could turn on Zoom when I want to read, but that’s beside the point. I should be able to use a system-level gesture like pinch-to-zoom to access information, and it’s frustrating that I can’t.

Another issue that affects reading text is contrast. For as nice-looking as Apple Music is, it does suffer from its form trumping its function. A prime example of this is the Now Playing screen. Similar to Rdio, Apple Music takes the colors from the album art and applies them to a blur in the background. It’s a neat trick, but the issue is sometimes the colors clash with the text, making for terrible contrast. At this point, I’m faced with a double-whammy for visually impaired users: small text and low contrast.

I would like to see Apple add an option to remove the blur from the background, akin to the Reduce Transparency setting in Accessibility. As nice as the effect is, it does me no good if I can’t see which song is playing. In this way, I think a simple black-on-white look would be better.

Apple Music does support Large Dynamic Type, but in my tests, it doesn’t apply to all text, and didn’t fix my gripe about editors’ notes. And it isn’t just text that needs a size boost; Apple would also do well by increasing the size of buttons across the app. They’re small everywhere, but especially controls like Shuffle, Repeat, and More on the Now Playing screen.

On the bright side

Apple Music has still made me a fan despite of these issues, and there are two things in particular that I enjoy.

First is 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s. I like how I’m able to use Quick Actions on the Home screen to quickly start playing Beats 1 or see which song I last played, saving me multiple taps inside the app. It may sound trivial, but these subtle changes make a big difference to someone like me who has both visual and physical motor impairments.

 

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