As of Tuesday, March 17, the bug has been fixed.
Blind people have been largely unable to access Uber on iPhone for more than six weeks, despite activists' repeated requests for a bug fix. Though the company has partially addressed the problem, blind activists say it's still hard — in some cases, prohibitively so — to use.
"They've somewhat addressed one issue, but they've created others," Scott Blanks, deputy director of the San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, told BuzzFeed News. "It is by no means a fix. It's concerning to me that after multiple phone calls, this is still an issue."
Most blind iOS users rely on VoiceOver, the screen reader built into every new iPhone that works (almost) perfectly with all native apps. But on Jan. 26, Uber released an update that rendered the "Request UberX" button, among other functions, effectively invisible to the VoiceOver reader. And the fixes the company has since issued have failed to fully address the problem.
For its part, Uber has acknowledged the issues and says it is working on them.
"Accessibility for all riders is a priority for Uber," the company said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. "We take these responsibilities very seriously and are committed to continuing to improve the Uber experience for this community."
Though there's no way of knowing how many people use VoiceOver to access Uber, recent census data shows that more than 20 million Americans have significant visual impairment. And according to a January 2014 survey conducted by the accessibility group WebAIM, VoiceOver is the most popular mobile screen reader among those surveyed, with 60.5% of respondents saying they use it.
So in January, thousands of blind iPhone users who use Uber as a daily form of transportation suddenly found themselves locked out of its functionality, without warning, and stuck without a ride. Needless to say, people were upset.