Glenwood family wants Apple to allow app change
Can a Glenwood Springs family and its allies persuade tech giant Apple Inc. to change an app?
Alice Brouhard believes they can and has started a petition on change.org requesting that Apple restore functionality to the Aida Reminder app. She said operating system updates in recent years have changed the app “from tremendously helpful to barely usable” for people with cognitive disabilities.
Brouhard’s daughter Kara Brouhard suffered a traumatic brain injury at age 5. Kara, now 34, faces significant challenges every day, but her determination along with support from family and friends give her the ability to live in her own home. Technology contributes to her quality of life by helping her maintain a schedule and move through daily life in a way that most of us take for granted.
The Aida Reminder app on her iPad is one tool that helps Kara live on her own. Time management and sequencing are difficult for her, but prompts recorded in her own voice remind her when to perform routine tasks. Reminders such as “The bus will be here in 10 minutes” or “It’s time to feed your dog” go off automatically, without requiring Kara to interact with her iPad, even when she is using other apps. Brouhard said this original Aida feature is essential for people with cognitive difficulties, but operating systems later than iOS 5 do not support them.
Aida Reminder’s developer told the Post Independent he wants to restore the functionality Brouhard seeks and it would be as easy as “flipping a switch,” but iOS updates have prevented him from making that change.
Apple declined to comment.
Alice Brouhard has worked diligently researching and adapting technological aids to help Kara live safely on her own. At one time, Kara used a $1,200 software program that allowed her to record prompts in her own voice, but when inexpensive reminder apps became available, her mother was excited about their potential to help Kara and others in the same way.
Brouhard tried “a multitude” of these apps and said Aida, with its voice reminder system in iOS 5, “was the most functional and by far the best.” She adapted the app for Kara and helped her record about 50 reminders to navigate through her days.
Brouhard said Kara relies on Aida Reminder’s ability to run in the background even when she is using other apps. But with later operating systems, people using other apps hear an Apple notification sound and then must open Aida to hear the voice reminder. That is too difficult for Kara and others with cognitive disabilities.
Brouhard is a vocal advocate for people with cognitive disabilities, speaking frequently at conferences across the country. She emphasized that restoring Aida Reminder’s original functionality has great potential to help others who live with the effects of developmental and injury-related cognitive difficulties, including wounded veterans. She also said the original Aida features can make the app more useful for those with dementia.
At one recent conference, she talked about her family’s pleas to Apple to restore the Aida Reminder functions that she describes as “life-changing” for those facing cognitive and memory challenges.
Another attendee, Sherry Ladislas, director of fund development at Trinity Services, an Illinois-based nonprofit, approached Brouhard about starting a petition on change.org. Brouhard said Ladislas understood the value of the Aida features and also her frustration with being a lone voice asking a huge company for change. She added that Ladislas and Trinity Services helped her create and launch the petition and described them as “my backbone in this venture.”
Brouhard said a change.org petition helped convince Apple to meet consumer demand regarding a third-party developer’s application earlier this year. In March, the company reversed its decision to remove the Launcher widget app from the App Store. As Steven Tweedie reported in Business Insider, Apple removed the popular time-saving app because it decided that its use of widgets did not follow Apple guidelines.
Launcher’s developer, Greg Gardner, started a petition that inspired many requests for its return. When he eventually resubmitted Launcher for App Store approval, the company rejected it initially but Apple’s review board reversed that decision on appeal.
The Business Insider report describes this an important “victory for developers who have long been confused by Apple’s spotty enforcement of its already vague guidelines. … Apple might have a tendency to remove apps while it figures out what it will and won’t allow, but Launcher’s return shows that persistence can pay off.”
Change.org and similar online petitions have led to big changes. For example, thousands of dietitians and nutritionists signed a petition calling on Kraft to remove a “Kids Eat Right” label from a processed cheese product. After nearly 12,000 signatures, Kraft pulled the label. In another instance, blind subscribers couldn’t enjoy Netflix’s “Daredevil,” about a blind superhero, because it lacked a “descriptive audio” option. After 3,000 signatures, Netflix pledged to make all its original shows accessible to the blind.
As of Saturday afternoon, Brouhard’s petition had 645 signatures.
The Aida Reminder app remains available from the App Store for 99 cents and is still popular, with a combined 4.5-star rating for all versions. However, the developer is ready to restore the functionality Brouhard seeks. He explained by email that, “We just need to change a line of code,” but said the feature change request he had submitted to Apple is “still pending.”
Brouhard believes persistence — and more voices — will pay off in persuading Apple to change that status. Her petition has garnered supportive comments such as, “I am singing this petition because I have an adult son with similar needs … This app set back to the prior functionality would really help him.”
One petition signer’s comment summarizes Brouhard’s mission and hope: “Let’s do this. Shouldn’t be complicated to reaccommodate this functionality. Long live Kara and Alice!”
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