Approaches to implementing eAccessibility for mobile devices:
Justifying adoption of eAccessibility
- Current studies show that an increasing number of users access the internet using their smart phone. The Importance of Mobile Device Accessibility (external) provides an extended statistics where and how mobile devices are used.
- Numerous users with different kinds of disabilities now use smartphones to achieve their goals, like receiving emails, using navigation and of course accessing the web. The Guardian: Smartphone technology as an accessibility platform (external) offers an overview of nowadays development progress in the field of accessibility for smartphones initially provided by the producers.
- Although not every smartphone provides the same amount of mobility features, the techniques and technology are evolving. Nevertheless, web site designers and providers (see WAI W3 (external)) and developers of mobile application have to consider this issue as well to make use of the accessibility features provided by smartphones (see Apple guideline for iOS development (external) and Android guideline for app development (external))
Beneficiaries of eAccessibilty
Web sites, application and devices considering the issue of accessibility are beneficial for a broad user group. Modern smartphones can provide lots of helpful services to older people, people with disability as well as people dealing with situation which cause a temporary disability when they are on the move. In addition, an accessible application can be still useable even if the user cannot have a lock at it since he or she is tied up with other tasks. These user groups are growing and will probably increase to an even more important portion of the whole number of users. The following resources give reason for that:
- An overview and a report at the same time of the growing number of older smartphone users  (external)
- A report of how many people from the UK access the internet and also how many of them are disabled and older  (external)
- A proper concept of operation including an accessible and hands-free user interface would prevent a lot of accidents caused by drivers using cell phones. This resource provides statistics about using cell phones and driving accidents  (external)
Managing implementation of eAccessibility
Successfully designing and implementing accessible apps depends on multiple factors. Well-trained software developers who have the knowledge about what accessibility means, and who have a basic understanding of how people with disabilities use their mobile devices. Another important step is to follow the development guidelines listed in the corresponding section of this document. These documents describe the technical needs that are necessary to create accessible mobile apps.
The following links give you some hints on how to effectively create mobile applications.
- MobileOK from W3C (external), a Web Page checker to determine the level of mobile-friendliness.
- MMF - Mobile Accessibility (external)
- How to make mobile phones more accessible for people with disabilities (external)
- Making Mobile Phones and Services Accessible for Persons with Disabilities (external) - a guide by ITU
- First Seven Steps to accessible mobile apps (external), a list of tips to develop accessible mobile apps
Designing for Accessibility or mobile devices
Today's common smart phone operating systems like iOS, Android or Windows Phone provide sufficient means to make an application accessible. Developers can rely on predefined GUI widgets that allow them to build stable, easy to understand and predictable user interfaces. Those operating systems offer display themes that feature higher contrast and larger fonts for visually impaired people. For blind people each operating system has its own accessibility API that provides screenreaders and other assistive technology with the required information. However programmers need to ensure that their application and the used widgets implement those accessibility interfaces.
Native code that uses native widgets normally implements those interfaces by nature. However Runtimes like Java ME (external) or Adobe Air (external) and their user interface widgets may not implement those accessibility API's. In this case it is not possible to create an application based on such a runtime that is accessible to blind people. To make such an application accessible the source of the runtime itself needs to be changed which is not possible in most cases.
Most operating systems provide guidelines and tools that provide effective approaches for the design and development of accessible ICTs:
- General Guidelines and Documents:
- Operating System Specific Guidelines
- iOS accessibility
- Android accessibility
- Windows Mobile Accessibility
- Navigation system accessibility
- Mobile Interface Technology
More on mobile/smart devices:
- Mobile/smart devices
- Accessibility aspects of mobile/smart devices lists items which have to be taken into account when designing and implementing.
- Standards and Guidelines for Mobile Devices provides an index of relevant formal documents guiding the process of commissioning and implementing accessible mobile applications and devices.
- Legislation for mobile/smart devices links to relevant legislation from EU member states and other countries raising awareness and providing an eAccessibility strategy.
- Case Studies for Mobile Accessibility presents examples of best practice that can provide inspiration and reference.
- Research on Mobile Accessibility collects articles and research activites/centres focusing on mobile accessibility.