LightHouse Goes Gaga for Agogo

Recently the Lighthouse was approached by tech start-up Agogo to help make their app more accessible for the Blind. Agogo distributes spoken word and other audio media such as news, radio shows and podcasts of all kind. An app that truly would be meaningful for many in the blind community! LightHouse Labs, some of LightHouse’s blind employees and the Agogo team put hours into testing the functionality and making recommendations. We were delighted to learn that as the Agogo team went to work to make the app blind-friendly they invented the technique of putting on sleepshades. The sighted developers put the app through its paces…blind. We deeply appreciate Agogo’s dedication to accessibility.

Read more about the LightHouse/Agogo partnership by Agogo founder J.D. Heilprin:

In late 2013, AGOGO launched a public beta of the ultimate listening service, with our initial focus being the on-the-go consumer and in-car experience. We wanted to build a better mousetrap for listening to audio, no longer satisfied with old-style services like radio and satellite radio. We wanted to integrate the very best sources with premium services (like Spotify for music, etc.) and take advantage of the rise of web-based non-linear programming consumption. We wanted to create something that could be personalized, and that would take the place of having to download a whole slew of apps. We aimed to redefine what “listening” is, embracing ways to listen to traditional audio, podcasts, audio books, video, text with text-to-speech and a whole range of live-programming.

When we introduced AGOGO, people immediately loved the service, sending us great feedback and reviews. But in digging into the initial feedback, we learned something that we simply had not considered: Blind and sight-impaired listeners raised their voices advising us that we built a product that could serve their community but that we had failed follow the rules to make our product fully accessible.

As AGOGO’s founder, the outreach from the blind and low vision community was one of those classic “aha” moments. After considering the initial feedback, I realized that if we embraced and learned about accessibility, we could both create a great service for the visually-impaired community and at the same time gain valuable insights into how sighted users might utilize the product when they should not be looking at a screen, i.e. when they are driving a car.

Embracing accessibility appeared to be a win-win opportunity for AGOGO, but we just didn’t know exactly how to go about doing it.

That’s where LightHouse and its trusted members came in. We learned that accessibility is a process and our efforts would be iterative, – that is, that they’d need to get better and better over time but that we needed a partner who could really guide us thru this new territory.

In December 2013 we began working with LightHouse to make AGOGO a leader in embracing universal accessibility, and it’s quickly proven to be one of the most impactful things we’ve accomplished.

We really got in the trenches: We presented our plan to folks at Apple; our engineers received formal training in accessibility; We prioritized accessibility over other features on our priority list; We had to understand exactly what the visually-impaired and blind user required in order to use and enjoy our service. We conducted formal testing of our service and its accessibility, and constantly iterated our builds directly based off of the feedback we received from our dedicated and experienced tester, Frank Welte. But that wasn’t enough — we wanted to observe, learn and understand even more.

On March 27th, we officially launched the new and improved AGOGO — now, fully accessible thanks to our partnership with LightHouse. We also launched a “Universal Access” channel on AGOGO featuring the best programming targeted to the accessible world. (We’d love to hear from you what additional programming you’d like to see here!)

During the month of April we put out two additional builds of AGOGO with additional accessibility improvements. We are also targeting a mid-May release with even more improvements. We continue to get strong feedback from the community, but we’ve also recognized a need to get the word out and to ask the blind community to support our efforts by downloading and using AGOGO. We’d love to hear from you!

You can get AGOGO here.

I’m really proud of teamAGOGO’s accessibility efforts and I hope you’ll give it a try. Finally, please remember, we’re committed to this, so we’re just getting rolling and we’ll continue to listen to your feedback and make universally accessible AGOGO better and better and better.