Blind Arabic speakers left out in iOS 7

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Friday, 11 October 2013 13:34pm

Blind Arabic speakers have identified that the quality of the screen reader has gone backwards in the latest update to the Apple iPad and iPhone software.

In the update to iOS 7, Apple removed the ‘Majed’ voice for the Arab language setting for VoiceOver and replaced it with the inferior ‘Tariq’ voice.

VoiceOver is the built in screen reader for all Apple devices which allows blind users to navigate their smartphone or tablet. VoiceOver can be controlled through a series of gestures useful for blind users who cannot see buttons or other visual elements on the screen.

Within the VoiceOver feature, a range of settings can be adjusted to suit the needs of the relevant user. Users are able to adjust the speed and pitch of the voice and select a language for VoiceOver to use. However, the new Arabic language voice has taken a step back to the quality provided by the voice used in previous versions of the OS.

 In an article posted on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW), Mike Wehner said the new voice used for Arabic in VoiceOver does not match the quality of the old voice.

“The new Arabic VoiceOver option frequently adds random syllables to words, making it difficult to comprehend, and also has a nasty habit of leaving spaces out between words,” said Wehner.

In addition to incorrectly pronouncing words by adding syllables, the Tariq voice has also been known to speak an entire sentence without any pause for spaces between words.

Many blind Arabic speaking users have expressed their concern for the loss of the enabling feature VoiceOver. A video posted on YouTube, ‘Message from Arab blind to Apple,’ captures testimonies and pleas from various users demonstrating the frustration with the quality of the new voice in iOS 7.

The issue first became known to Wehner after Mohammed AlWahhabi, an Arabic speaking user noted the problem on his blog (written in Arabic).

 “AlWahhabi told me that after contacting Apple multiple times for a solution, he was told that if enough individuals take issue with the change, it may be addressed,”  Wehner said.

Information about changing the language settings for VoiceOver can be found on the Apple website.

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