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Redesigned Sonos app and compatibility with voice-over screen reader in IOS


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Hello has the forthcoming redesigned Sonos App (announced on 23rd April 2024) been tested for compatibility with the voice-over screen reader in IOS? I am totally blind and currently use sonos very successfully with the S2 app on both my Iphone and Ipad. can you confirm whether the app has been tested with voice-over and that it will continue to be accessible to voice-over users. I am slightly reluctant to update if the app ends up being less accessible to me. at present the current app works beautifully with the exception of a few minor quirks. Thanks for any info you can supply. Best wishes Angus

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Best answer by Corry P 26 April 2024, 10:23

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Hi, I have the same question. I've been a Sonos user for almost a decade, and I always fangirl about the accessibility of the system to me as a blind user. Will the redesigned app be accessible with Voiceover? If we don't get confirmation, I'm going to try to update on a secondary device first and see how it goes. I essentially upgraded almost my entire system over the past six months and I am enjoying the new hardware. I hope accessibility doesn't get broken. 

In this Community we don’t know more than anyone else and, like you, we have no experience with the new interface. I have no experience with Voiceover.

Do you use Alexa or SVC (Sonos Voice Control)? I don’t expect any changes to them.

Are you using the desktop SONOS application with Voiceover? If so, I don’t expect any immediate changes, however, many of us are worrying that desktop controllers will fade away at some point. I prefer using the desktop controller for routine SONOS system operation.

Hi, I've sometimes seen responses from staff here so I thought it was worth replying to bump the original post and to help demonstrate that Sonos has a good-sized blind user base. I sometimes use Alexa to control my system, and I occasionally use the desktop controller, but my 32-speaker system would become unusable if the iOS controller did not work with Voiceover, the built-in screen reader on the iPhone. Sonos has in the past demonstrated a commitment to accessibility, so I am going to be optimistic and assume they will do the same this time. But I'm going to keep my main device on the current version of the app until I can verify. Thanks. 

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Hi @Geordieshorts74 & @HolyBraille 

Welcome to the Sonos Community!

Apologies for the delay - I wanted to ensure I had a correct answer for you.

Yes, the new Sonos app has been tested with voice-over and will continue to be accessible to voice-over users. We aim to keep improving this experience and our ultimate goal is to have an even better experience for voice-over users with our new app update.

I hope this helps.

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Hi Cory, many thanks for your reply and your confirmation Re sonos’ commitment to accessibility with IOS and Voice-over - that’s good to know! 

I’m going to try the app on a secondary device first before updating my own, but it’s good to know that accessibility has been taken to account when designing the new interface. 

Reading various articles on the new app, I think it has a lot of potential, not least that people can design their home screen to best suit their needs and preferences. I wish you the best of luck with the role-out of the app, and thanks again.  

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I am also a Voiceover user and have been a Sonos user since 2009. I used to Beta test and along with a few other active blind advocates we were able to convince that their products had a large appeal to blind users and that accessibility should be an integral part of the app and become rooted in the Sonos Philosophy just as it is with Apple. I am very happy tot hear that this next big Sonos app update maintains Sonos’ commitment to accessibility and I’ll share what I read here with other blind Sonos fans.

Yes, this really is fantastic news. Sounds like the new version of the app has a lot to offer, and I am looking forward to it. ,,,

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I look forward to it as well and thanks for asking the question on here; when I received the email the other day I was certainly wondering about it, but didn’t even think of asking the community.

 

Yes, thank you @Geordieshorts74 for posting here. I googled to see if anyone had raised the issue and was glad to find this post. I switched to Sonos after trying a competitor’s product and discovering that the accompanying app was pretty much unusable with my screen reader. I haven’t looked back since. It’s rare to find accessible consumer electronics, and I truly enjoy the Sonos ecosystem.

Yes, the new Sonos app has been tested with voice-over and will continue to be accessible to voice-over users. We aim to keep improving this experience and our ultimate goal is to have an even better experience for voice-over users with our new app update.

 

Hello, and thank you for this reply. I am hearing some reports of other blind users that have tried both the beta on the iPhone and the web app and reporting a rathre subpar experiene currently. DO you know if the accessibility features have been rolled out into the current betas or if this is something coming later on? As a user of the current and soon legacy Windows app as well as the Android version, I would hate to be put in a position where I need to sell all of my speakers to move to another platform. Are there screen reader and other accessibility users on the beta test group, and are issued actively being triaged? In the meantime, will the current apps still function for a period of time without a forced update?

 

Thanks for your response, and I hope to try an accessible new app experience soon.

Hello, I’ve heard similar things. I hope that any issues have been addressed so that at launch, blind customers will have the same experience as everyone else and will not be relegated to second-class status. This blog post summarizes the issue. https://mosen.org/sonos2024/

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@Jage  sounds like you are referring to the recent article by Jonathan Mosen. 
 

The current app will continue to work for the foreseeable future as long as you don’t update the iOS  app or firmware on your speakers. Jonathan provides instructions on how to ensure you have this locked down near the end of his post, link below. 
 

https://mosen.org/sonos2024/

Thanks I wrote this before he posted that but that article is correct and accurate.

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Thanks I wrote this before he posted that but that article is correct and accurate.

Thank you for posting on the Reddit thread, the more exposure the better. 

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Hi @Jage 

I cannot comment on Beta software, and technically, neither can anyone else - Non-Disclosure Agreements are in place! Beta is Beta, however, and it is unfair to judge any software by it’s pre-release version.

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Hi @Jage 

I cannot comment on Beta software, and technically, neither can anyone else - Non-Disclosure Agreements are in place! Beta is Beta, however, and it is unfair to judge any software by its pre-release version.

You have an announcement thread on this beta software where you discuss the new features and app. This isn’t the way to handle this. 

Hello. FTR, I do not have access to the beta here and if I did of course I would not be commenting publicly

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Hi @Jage 

I cannot comment on Beta software, and technically, neither can anyone else - Non-Disclosure Agreements are in place! Beta is Beta, however, and it is unfair to judge any software by it’s pre-release version.

 

 

 

Hi Corry, thanks for taking the time to reply, but the reply only amplifies the concerns many blind people are feeling at the moment.

 

What we know is that in all Sonos’s official communications on the new app, no mention was made of accessibility. Blind people had to come to this community, to Reddit, and to social media to ask the question. After dong so, there was quite a delay until Sonos provided an answer, meaning that accessibility isn’t exactly top-of-mind during this creation process.

 

Next, we have a user who, yes, while probably breaching NDA, felt so overwhelmed by the user experience for VoiceOver users with the iOS app that he didn’t know where to begin reporting the issues. On my blog post which has been reference in this thread, he had a go at summarising the problems.

 

Whistle blowing is a perfectly reasonable response when a vulnerable part of the userbase may be adversely affected.

 

You can of course play the NDA card, but here’s the thing. App updates at least on iOS are a one-way trip. I suspect our Android friends are far better off in this regard and can get the old app back if they need to, unless subsequent Sonos firmware updates require the use of the new app.

 

So, as the author of a book on Sonos some years ago that got a lot of blind people into the ecosystem, and as the host of a widely-heard podcast in the blind community, I have provided instructions on how to disable Sonos firmware updates and app updates until we get further assurance that blind people are not about to have materially worse access to the hardware they have paid for, and in many cases saved hard for.

 

I note the NDA card wasn’t played when Sonos produced YouTube videos showing people the new app. If that’s acceptable for sighted people, why isn’t something equivalent acceptable for blind people? If Sonos really has this under control, why not have a capable screen reader user demonstrate that the app has in fact substantially improved since that tester had such an overwhelming, disheartening experience?

 

Sonos appears so disconnected from the blind community that it doesn’t seem to understand what is happening! I know firsthand that a Government regulator in the United States has already expressed concern to the CEO, as has the leader of the largest consumer representative organisation in the United States, a similar organisation in Europe, a leader in Canada, and individual customers who just want their products to keep working with the same high degree of accessibility that exists now.

 

So the NDA card is not the right one to play here. At best, Sonos has seriously mishandled quality communication with its blind customers, having not factored accessibility into the coms strategy around the app. At worst, if the released build of the app is as bad as the one this tester used, things are going to get really rocky.

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@jmosen @Jage @HolyBraille @Sieghard @Geordieshorts74 

Sonos has posted a comment on the new app and accessibility, link below

 

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Hi @Bumper & @Jage 

Hi @Jage 

I cannot comment on Beta software, and technically, neither can anyone else - Non-Disclosure Agreements are in place! Beta is Beta, however, and it is unfair to judge any software by its pre-release version.

You have an announcement thread on this beta software where you discuss the new features and app. This isn’t the way to handle this. 

The announcement is for the main release version of the software, whereas experience of the beta version was referred to. I can’t comment on Beta experiences, period.

 

Hello. FTR, I do not have access to the beta here and if I did of course I would not be commenting publicly

No worries! I understood that to be the case and was not accusing you of anything.

 

Hi @jmosen 

I refer you to the post from my colleague which @Bumper linked to above.

 

 

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Around 2010 to 2012 I was fairly involved in talking to Sonos and  in beta testing the app from a blind user’s perspective. I spend many hours testing and writing messages describing issues and in the end Sonos released a beautifuly accessible app and it really seemed that they were one of the few companies who get how accessibility should work, e.g. it should be built in and not achieved by some half-baked fixes or other tools like using the screen recognition feature of Voicover. For all these years accessibility was maintained in all app updates and it is sad to see that apparently Sonos leadership had a change of heart when it comes to accessibility. Why would they release an app on May 7 and say that by May 21 many accessibility features would be restored and that furthermore another 6 weeks later the app once again is supposed to be completely accessible. If they know all this then why don’t they schedule the public release for the end of June so that all users can enjoy the new app? I wish there came a day when an app was released with full accessibility in place, but all the sight4ed users have to wait 2 months before they can properly use the app, maybe the screen goes black 90% of the time which of course isn’t a problem for Voiceover users, but sighted people can only use the app for 6 minutes every hour or something like that. Shame on Sonos and maybe it is time to re-evaluate what else is out there. I wonder if the experience with this new app is so bad if I could call Sonos and they would offer to buy back my $8,000 or so of sonos gear at full retail value.

I remember a few years back when I tweeted that an update to the Sonos iOS app broke one part of accessibility--specifically, the app stopped announcing which rooms were selected when you were grouping things together. I was amazed when the Sonos official Twitter account mentioned me and asked me to provide more details. Subsequently, I got a DM from this same account, letting me know that there was an update to the App and Sonos believed they had fixed the problem. They asked me to try the new app and report back. I did so, and to my even greater amazement, I could once again group my speakers accessibly. I told that story for years. I invested heavily in the ecosystem (I currently have 32 active units, and my child has a system with eight units). I recommended Sonos to my friends--blind and sighted--because of this commitment to accessibility, which was nothing I’d ever experienced in the mainstream consumer electronics space. I remain hopeful that the accessibility issues with the app (of which there are many) will be addressed within the stated timeframe. Still, I doubt I’ll be telling that Twitter story again.  

This news makes me very nervous to become a new blind Sonos customer. I was thinking about purchasing the headphones when they launch to dip my toes into the Sonos ecosystem, but I won’t do that until we get a public apology from the CEO and other executives in the company assuring us issues like this will never happen again, and the accessibility is restored on all platforms. Sonos products aren’t cheap, and this is absolutely unacceptable we’re locked out as paying customers.

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I use my Sonos app with voiceover on my iPhone because I am blind. While the latest update fixed many voiceover issues, there are still a lot of problems. For example, many of the settings in account settings and system settings are not accessible. in particular the EQ settings do not indicate whether loudness or trueplay is on or off my Sonos Move. There are also many other examples of similar problems. When will these issues be addressed so that blind people can use the new Sonos app in the same way as cited people.

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