Monday, April 4, 2016

Apple: Hard on the Hard-of-Hearing

Hi, Dr. Chatterji: I read your piece in the New York Times on Sunday, April 3, on "The Power of C.E.O. Activism." It was interesting to read how Tim Cook’s voiced opposition to a state law prohibiting same-sex marriage resulted in a boost to the Apple brand, at least wrt to intent by consumers to purchase Apple's products. I couldn’t help thinking of Apple’s recent petition to the FCC to exempt the iPhone from the hearing-aid compatibility standard. If granted by the FCC, Apple will be able to substitute its proprietary BT protocol, which links the iPhone with Apple’s MFi (Made for iPhone) hearing aids. Under that linking protocol, users of the Apple-compatible aids will only be able to link with the iPhone for phone call accessibility, and the iPhone (7?) will only be compatible with the MFi aids. This would create a lockbox for both the aids and the iPhone; users will be stuck with that option for telephone calls. In contrast, the current FCC compatibility standards are inter-operable across cellphone and hearing-aid brands. Even the Bluetooth Hearing Aid Working Group opposes Apple’s attempt. (Links to the relevant docs, and BT’s Working Group chair’s response, are in the article below). When reading your article, it seemed ironic that Cook was being seen as an advocate for same-sex marriage choice, while eliminating options for its customers with disabilities. Because it has to do with Apple’s practices, products and disability access, it is a much stronger expression of their real beliefs than a comment on a hot-button policy issue (like same-sex marriage). But, this hearing-loss accessibility gambit on Apple’s part may get less press….so Cook has, perhaps, chosen his battles well. Time will tell. Read more here, including what the Chair of BT’s Hearing Aid Working Group thinks: Thanks for writing about this….it was very interesting, on many levels. k Kathi Mestayer

No comments: