On July 26, I received yet another support Email saying in part,
Dear Steve, Thank you for contacting Weight Watchers. My name is [Name redacted] and I will be more than happy to assist you with troubleshooting your application. I do apologize for this inconvenience. Your email has been escalated to me. In order for us to be sure we offer you the best support for Weight Watchers Mobile, please answer the following questions for us: * Are you using a mobile device or a computer? * What is your device model and Operating System? * If you are using an iPhone, iPad or iPod, please confirm whether you are using the Weight Watchers Mobile app for iPhone App or accessing our mobile site [a.weightwatchers.com](http://a.weightwatchers.com/) ? * If you are using a computer, what internet browser are you using. * If you have not already done so in your initial Email to us, please let us know what error you are receiving. * If your issue is technical in nature and you have not already done so in your initial Email to us, please describe as best you can what is occurring and what steps you took prior to running into the problem. Also please provide any error messages you may have received. As soon as we receive your response we will investigate on your behalf.
OK, clearly, they’re still confused. That said, this issue is obviously on someone’s radar as there most recent app update has fixed the SmartPoint values reading on foods. The daily and weekly totals still don’t read correctly, but at least now I am no longer disillusioned by chocolate cake having a 0 point value. :)
While the title of this post may seem a bit dramatic, I assure you it isn’t, at least not to me. In a nut shell, the situation is this: I pay for an app or service, use the app or service and then, with one update, it suddenly becomes impossible to use the app or service any longer. This may not seem like that big a deal to those who are able to see, but for those of us who depend on VoiceOver or other assistive technologies, it’s a situation that is very real.
As many of my social media followers know, I’ve been a member of Weight Watchers for quite a few months. After all, I can definitely stand to lose a few pounds and I’ve seen the program be successful with many who have benefited greatly from it. I was also very encouraged to learn that Weight Watchers has a page dedicated to accessibility which says in part::
In our ongoing commitment to help as many people as possible to lose weight, including those with disabilities, Weight Watchers is dedicated to improving accessibility for people with visual impairments in the following ways.
The page then goes on to describe how to use the Weight Watchers online service with the JAWS screen reader, with VoiceOver and Safari, how to request information in alternative formats, how to optimize the Tracker for accessibility and much more. I felt their commitment to accessibility to be genuine and in all fairness, their web site and iOS app worked extremely well, that is until the latest version.
For those unfamiliar with Weight Watchers, the program is essentially a points-based system where by individuals are allocated a number of points to be used throughout the day and foods are also given a point value, healthier foods receiving lower values than non-healthy foods. A person can eat whatever they wish, the goal being to stay within their allocated number of points. In short, it’s totally fine to have a big slab of chocolate cake, but because that slab of cake has a high point value, a smarter decision might be to opt for different, more healthier foods. Using their iOS app, it’s possible to look up a food’s point value and to track it against the daily total. Not only is this an efficient system, but the app can be instrumental in making healthy food choices by allowing the user to look up point values before deciding what to eat.
Like many of their customers, I update the Weight Watcher’s app regularly. I certainly didn’t anticipate any problems when installing the latest version described as:
What's New in Version 4.9.1 Fixed an issue with the barcode scanner. We're always working to improve the app and maximize your experience — thanks for sharing your thoughts so we can make it even better. More exciting improvements to come!
Imagine my surprise when, after installing this harmless-looking update, all the point values suddenly started reading as ‘0’?
After getting over my initial euphoria over chocolate cake suddenly having a ‘0’ point value, I realized that the problem was in fact an accessibility one. For whatever reason, VoiceOver is no longer able to read point values accurately. What this means is that in search results, when adding foods, when reviewing meals and anywhere else a point value might present itself, it is simply read as ‘0’. Given the critical part the point values play in the program, this is a real problem. How can I utilize a system based on points when I can’t read the actual points?
So, what to do? My first step was to utilize live chat functionality which is built directly into the Weight Watchers app. This chat system is pleasantly accessible and since it’s available around the clock, I thought it would be a quick way to describe the issue and see if it had already been reported. After explaining the situation to the chat representative, my chat was “transferred”; I never knew a chat could be transferred. Anyway, I get a new representative to whom I again explain the situation only to have my chat disconnected. By this point my hands hurt from all the typing in addition to my already-mounting frustration, so I figure the next best thing to do is to contact them via the web site. I do this, being sure to mention that I’m blind, this is an accessibility issue followed by a descriptive explanation of the problem. Over a day later, I receive this response:
Dear Steve, Thank you for contacting Weight Watchers. My name is [name redacted] and I'm sorry about the challenges that you have encountered in accessing your account through the WW Mobile App. Rest assured, that I will help you with your concern. I appreciate your subscription with our Online Plus plan. We want to take this opportunity to thank you for trying our site and for making us a part of your weight loss journey. Please try the following troubleshooting steps: 1. Please log out from the App and log back in. 2. If that does not work, force close the App if you have an Android device. Then relaunch the App. For iOS, close the App by double-clicking on the home button, swipe up on app snapshot, and click home button. Then relaunch the App. 3. If steps 1 and 2 do not work, delete the App and reinstall. Please note that recently scanned items are stored locally on the device and will be lost when you uninstall. If you would like to keep a recently scanned item, please save it as a favorite. The Mobile App requires iOS 8.0 or later. It is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. For Android users, it requires Android 4.0.3 and up. While it might also work on an Android tablet, it is not yet fully supported and may not be compatible. Let us know how things go! If the troubleshooting steps do not help, please reply here with details about what you are experiencing. We’ll investigate further and reach out should we need to gather additional details.
Clearly the rep misunderstands what’s meant here by “accessibility” despite my having mentioned blind, VoiceOver, and referencing their own accessibility page in my request. No matter, I decide to be a trooper and try all the steps which, as expected, don’t accomplish anything at all. I’ve sent an even more descriptive reply and as of this writing, have heard absolutely nothing.
So why the dramatic post title? It’d be one thing if this were a situation pertaining to one specific company or app, but this is a situation that occurs again and again. Right now on my phone, I have an entire folder of apps that fall into this category, apps that I either want to use or that I’ve come to depend on which have become partially or completely useless to me. Some of these apps are health-related, some are social and more disturbingly, some are productivity apps that help me maintain employment. The company may change, the app or web site may change, but what it all amounts to is that I spend a lot of time feeling frustrated and navigating the realm of tech support when, like everyone else, I just want to live my life. It’s especially sad in this case though, given Weight Watcher’s
"ongoing commitment to help as many people as possible to lose weight, including those with disabilities,".