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.
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:
- Per Busch – Per often tweets about mobile access and iPhone accessibility (using the hash tag #iphoneaccess). He also keeps an updated wiki on iPhone accessibility.
- Veronika Jermolina – AbilityNet consultant researching mobile access as a whole. Not to be missed is her Techshare presentation on the accessibility of mobile services.
- Text to speech library for Anroid – A Google group discussing possibilities and realities.
- Mobile Active – While Mobile Active has a broader remit to connect “people, organizations, and resources using mobile technology for social change” it looks at mobile accessibility as part of this.
- Damon Rose BBC Ouch! – Damon often blogs about mobile access issues and has good insight into the issues people face.
- BBC web development guidelines – under the careful eye of Lucy Dodd, the Beeb is looking at writing guidelines for accessible mobile web development.
If you know of any other people, initiatives or pieces of research flying around let me know and I’ll update this list.