Google Wisely Pauses Move to Impose Accessibility Restrictions

Last month, in “Google’s Extremely Shortsighted and Bizarre New Restrictions on Accessibility Services”  — — I was highly critical of Google’s move to restrict Android app accessibility services only to apps that were specifically helping disabled persons. 

Google’s actions were assumed to be aimed at preventing security problems that can result when these accessibility services are abused — but these services also implement critical functionalities to other well-behaved apps that cannot currently be provided to most Android users without the use of those services.

My summary statement in that post regarding this issue was:

“The determining factor shouldn’t be whether or not an app is using an accessibility service function within the specific definition of helping a particular class of users, but rather whether or not the app is behaving in an honest and trustworthy manner when it uses those functions.”

I’m pleased to report that Google is apparently now in the process of reevaluating their entire stance on this important matter. Developers have received a note from Google announcing that they are “pausing” their decision, and including this text:

“If you believe your app uses the Accessibility API for a responsible, innovative purpose that isn’t related to accessibility, please respond to this email and tell us more about how your app benefits users. This kind of feedback may be helpful to us as we complete our evaluation of accessibility services.”

Bingo. This is exactly the approach that Google should be taking to this situation, and I’m very glad to see that the negative public reactions to their earlier announcement have been taken to heart.

We’ll have to wait and see what Google’s final determinations are regarding this area, but my thanks to the Google teams involved for giving the feedback the serious consideration that it deserves.