Techshare presentation: Is the mobile web disabled by design?

I presented at Techshare earlier this month focusing on universal access on mobile drawing on comparisons and lessons from desktop and looking ahead at existing and emerging technologies that help developers ensure content is accessible across devices.

I tried to answer the question “Is the mobile web enabled or disabled by design?”, in other words can one web work for mobile users with disabilities? After much talk with people and feedback from my presentation my thoughts on this have evolved to the following:

  • Mobile development is at a cross roads just as desktop development was in the late 90s with a danger of separate versions, building for single platforms/browsers, reliance on proprietary technologies and ignoring web standards biting at our heels
  • We should focus on one content source, multiple delivery mechanisms (CSS Media Queries, personalisation, geolocation etc)
  • We can learn from our mistakes of the late 90s on desktop and skip to progressive enhancement, one web, cross browser compatibility and web standards
  • We are all disabled to some extent on mobile – this may influence better usability and accessibility overall
  • Mobile development may, in time, inform better web development on desktop
  • We need common accessibility APIs on mobile to support text-to-speech / screen reader output (pretty please)
  • Widgets are the way forward (more of that later)

I’ve gone into more depth on this in thoughts on making the mobile web accessible.

What next?

My research has showed me that there really isn’t a lot of information out there on how to make mobile browsing accessible. What’s key however is to remember that while there is a cross over between difficulties all users experience on a mobile and difficulties experiences by disabled users on the desktop  we can’t lump them together – we need to work to understand issues specific to disabled users and how to address them.

There are a number of great people out there already working in this area and starting to talk about findings and research. Ones to watch are:

If you know of any other people, initiatives or pieces of research flying around let me know and I’ll update this list.

2 thoughts on “Techshare presentation: Is the mobile web disabled by design?

  1. Two people who are really familiar with mobile accessibility are Victor Tsaran of Yahoo! and Tom Wlodkowski of AOL. While they don’t publish much in this area, they are excellent resources.

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