I’ve never hosted Thanksgiving. OK, that’s not quite true...I had it one year, but since it was just me and my mom, I don’t think that counts. I have no idea what I made, but chances are it involved instant mashed potatoes, some random vegetable I grabbed out of the freezer, and a frozen turkey loaf.
I’m a much better cook these days, but if I found out I had to host a full-fledged Thanksgiving, I think I’d panic, I wouldn’t know the first thing about making a turkey...or how big of a bird to buy...or how long to thaw it (by the way, the only reason I know to thaw it is from watching Thanksgiving and Christmas TV specials). I’m pretty sure I could cook it without subjecting my guests to salmonella, but I’m not sure I’d want to risk it.
But the good news is that I do know my technology so I started poking around...you know, just in case I find myself drawing the short straw one year. And I found out there is a Butterball App for iOS. Color me intrigued!
The app has a pretty simple interface. After passing the start screen, where you are invited to create an account, log in, or skip to the main screen, you get what is essentially an A-Z listing of all the recipes within the app. Truth be told, it’s a bit overwhelming. As a low-vision user, I found the company’s attempt to lure you in with the pretty and delicious pictures interesting, but it really didn’t help that the titles assigned to each picture were very hard to read, or find for that matter. Simply put, there was way too much clutter on the screen to make it easy to visually navigate.
But the good news is, once you turned on VoiceOver, the experience was pretty good. It would read each recipe name as you swiped past it and if you double-tapped, it would bring up a screen with the picture, cook time, and number of servings. Along the top are different links that take you to the ingredients, directions, and a place you can write down your own notes. To be honest, I would have preferred if all of this information was on the same screen to avoid having to navigate all over the place with VoiceOver. But hey, it’s accessible so I’ll take what I can get.
The Bird is the Word!
So how about that bird? Well, at the very top left of the app is a menu button that VoiceOver alls “ic ham” (ironic for an app by a company that produces turkey, but I digress). You can always relabel the button if you’re going to be using the app a lot and want to make sure to remember where the menu is. Anyway, if you double-tap that menu, you will be presented with a “tools” button and a “settings” button. If you choose the “tools” button you will be able to choose from “ingredient substitutes”, “conversion chart”, or “turkey calculator”.
If you select the last option, you will be able to enter the number of guests you are expecting and the app will approximate how large of a turkey you will need to get. Other options under that link include a tool to estimate how long your turkey will need to thaw as well as how long it will need to cook. All of these tools are accessible except the last one, which for some reason always says your turkey needs to cook for zero hours and zero minutes...
Filtering Recipes and Results
If, like me, you’d rather not navigate the many recipes in alphabetical order, you can navigate to the filter menu at the top right of the screen. Visually, this is an accessible feature, though then again, the delicious food images they use as backgrounds do make the text a bit difficult though not impossible) to read.
Unfortunately, using the filter option is a bit trickier to use with VoiceOver. For one thing the “filter” button is just labeled as “button", so you have to make sure that you are either finger dragging at the top right of the screen or that it is the second button that the VoiceOver cursor finds. Once you have selected that button, VoiceOver will allow you to select “products” or “recipe type” and even go through the categories, but you must finger drag rather than flick through the options. If you try to flick, you will be redirected to the alphabetical listing again.
This is a very useful app, offering unique recipes from Acorn Squash Soup with Turkey and Red Pepper Meatballs to Zucchini with Black Beans and Chipotle. But really, there are lots of app that can offer these sorts of recipes and many in a more accessible environment.
In my opinion, what makes this particular app more useful than others is the ability to figure out how long to thaw or cook your turkey and/or how large of a turkey you should buy for your family gathering. In that area, it offers something pretty unique.
For a low vision user, this app is reasonably accessible. The only real stumbling block is the main screen, which is rather cluttered and some of the writing is hard to find or read. But if you can get into the filter area or the main menu to access the “turkey tools”, most users will have a better experience.
VoiceOver Accessibility If you are going to use VoiceOver, this app is pretty accessible, but you are going to need to know when to flick and when to finger drag. This is a common issue with many mainstream apps because the “flicking” tends to kick you out of whatever submenu you’ve chosen to enter while the “finger dragging” allows you to access these areas easier.
Another issue is the fact that the main menu button and the filter button are not labeled with with VoiceOver. This could be an easy fix for Butterball (or you could simply relabel the element by double-tapping with two fingers and holding for about three seconds). Either way, this does not fix the issue in the tools section where no matter how large your turkey is, you are told it needs to cook for zero hours and zero minutes…
This app may not be completely accessible with VocieOver and may have some visual cluttering issues, but it is worth exploring. If you are into trying new and unique recipes such as "Quinoa", "Turkey, and Apple Pilaf” or “Turkey Risotto with Artichoke Hearts and Sundried Tomatoes” it might be worth your time to download. And hey, it's free so what do you have to lose?
By the way, if you’d rather go the low-tech route, there is a Butterball Turkey Hotline available where you can speak to a member of the Butterball Turkey Team. Simply call 1-800-BUTTERBALL (1-800-288-8372). You can also text 844-877-3456. There are other ways to contact the company at www.butterball.com including email and messaging options.