Why Do Apps Ask to Access Accessibility Features?

I began wondering about this while testing the latest version of Commander One, a dual-pane file manager for the Mac. Full disclosure – Eltima Software provide me a complimentary copy for review. Commander One also lets you access files on your iPad or iPhone through a cabled USB connection to your Mac.

When a third-party app tries to access and control your Mac through accessibility features, a dialog alert informs you. You must specifically grant the app access to your Mac in Security & Privacy preferences. In iOS on the iPhone or iPad, you may see a similar request to grant an app access to the microphone, camera, photos or another system app.

While testing Commander One, I received a request from the program for permission to control my computer using accessibility features. Before granting permission, I decided to contact Ivan Korol at Eltima to ask why his program needed this access. His quick reply explained it well. In this case, Commander One would use the function keys for shortcuts in the program rather than for their typical iOS assignments.

“You need to provide an access for Universal Controls usage in Commander One only if you are going to use F1-F12. The thing is that these keys are used as system ones (f.e. you can control volume or open Launchpad using them). When you provide an access to these keys for Commander One then they will be used in this software only. You can enable or disable this option by going into Preferences, opening Hotkeys tab and removing or placing the tick in the checkbox next to “Ignore system settings for F1-F12”

How does app permission work on iOS for iPad and iPhone? Well-behaved apps explain why they need access. For example, an audio recording app might request access to your microphone when you begin your first recording. You’ll see the system permission prompt [Don’t Allow | OK]. If you agree, the app has that permission until you remove it. If you deny it, the app should never bother you for this same permission again. You can check and change the permissions you’ve given in Settings > Privacy.

Choose apps wisely and always be careful when granting apps access to features on your computer or iOS device. Trustworthy apps are generally not abusing the privilege they are requesting. They are trying to perform a system function that is not normally possible or establish better integration with the operating system or other apps.

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About Andy Brovey

Dr. Andy Brovey, The Portable Prof, teaches about digital tools through his work, websites and social media. In 2007, Apple Inc. recognized his work and named him an Apple Distinguished Educator. He started this iPad Academy website shortly after the first iPad went on sale. On his Freelance Teaching site you'll find the resources you need to teach like a smart entrepreneur.