I needed another phone charger and I wanted to be able to use matter devices with SmartThings and there was a great Black Friday sale on the white model, so I went ahead and ordered one.
(For those who don’t know, I am quadriparetic. I use a wheelchair and have limited use of my hands. So for me, Home Automation is more than just a hobby. It’s essential to how I manage my day without needing to ask someone else to do everything from fill a water bottle to turning off the lights at night. I use a mix of SmartThings, Alexa, and Apple Home and have had SmartThings since 2014.)
I decided to try to set up the station on my own, since paying someone else to do things greatly increases the cost of any home automation project.
Unboxing was physically very challenging. I’m not sure if this was an intentional theft deterrent design or not, but the tabs inside the box were physically blocking the removal of the tray with the device, so it was really hard for me to get it out of the box without just tearing it open, but I eventually managed.
Connecting the station to my account was pretty easy, but completing setup through the app and creating a routine was not.
I use VoiceOver as my screen reader. It comes built-in to iOS and is very popular. It works very well as long as app authors have correctly coded their screens to the W3C standards for voice accessibility. In addition to the Apple Home app, I use it regularly with the Alexa app, the Phillips hue app, Safari, and a variety of other apps.
In 2018, Samsung announced a commitment to global accessibility. And released a new smartthings app, which had a lot of accessibility issues.
Since then, the app has only gotten worse, and, as I discovered when trying to setup the station, it is now unusable by anyone with a screen reader. Here are just a few examples I ran into immediately:
This screen shows what someone using a screen reader hears as they navigate the page.
These screens show what they don’t hear. Sigh.
And this one is just a basic navigation issue. I couldn’t find any way to get past the first screen using the screen reader.
Seriously, the only description for an actionable field is “button”? not only is it clear that whoever is working on the app has no idea how to meet Samsung’s own stated accessibility standards, it’s clear that there has been absolutely zero testing for accessibility.
For those interested in what global industry standards for accessibility are these days, the following is a good starting point. But the main thing is that the standards are well defined, clear, and quite easy to implement and test for with the available tools, many of which are free. (There are also services which can audit an app and produce an accessibility report, so you don’t have to have in-house expertise.)
This isn’t a campaign or a protest: choosing this level of accessibility ineptitude is a business decision that Samsung has the right to make for itself. And that it’s been making for at least the last five years. But although several different individual SmartThings staff have reached out to me over the years and promised that things would get better and the app would meet basic WCAG accessibility standards, it’s only gotten worse. As someone once said “your life IS your philosophy,” and Samsung‘s philosophy clearly doesn’t include providing accessible products.
Fortunately, for those of us that need those products there are now a lot of alternatives available. Certainly a lot more than in 2018. Choice is good.
But for me, the station is unusable because the SmartThings app is unusable. So back it goes.