Thursday, 4 November 2010

Accessibility in the mobile arena

It took years for the interactive industry to recognise and implement web sites that conformed to accessibility guidelines for disadvantaged people due to physical or learning impairments - many would argue that this still hasn't happened and lots of web sites are still impenetrable for disadvantaged users. However, at least guidelines exist and research been done so that when and if clients demand accessible sites, your designers can demonstrate compatibility and you can build the requirements into the Time, Cost, Quality spec.

What about mobile? In many ways the development of mobile offerings has been experimental, entrepreneurial - in the spirit of interactive communication development, you might say. And after finding out how, when, and what to offer in the mini interactive environments on the mobile devices, and then how successful they have been, everyone wants a part of the action. There's no stronger motivation than feeling left out!

So it'll be no surprise that the guidelines for mobile are coming! Watch this space. But don't worry. You need to deal with these as you have web accessibility guidelines. The ones that become legal requirements you must heed and educate your clients that you have to operate in this way. The voluntary guidelines will depend on your client, their ethics, and their market requirements. All you need to do is ask the right questions at the right time in the project start-up and work out the implications for time, cost and quality. Perhaps time to revise your scoping questionnaire?

What's happening then? In mid October the UK government convened a forum of experts to address the issues of interactive accessibility and making services more inclusive. This will have implications for web and mobile.

The well known web accessibility initiative, , is already addressing mobile accessibility issues.

The RNIB, renowned for championing web accessibility for its sector, offers useful resources for its members about the use of mobile on its site. They are useful for us to note too.

Finally, yes, the phone operators themselves have some initiatives for disadvantaged customers – such as Vodafone, who will concentrate on two strategies. The first will look at assistive products and services, and the second Inclusive design.
Our strategic objective by March 2011 is to offer an option that makes access to telecommunications possible for hearing impaired, visually impaired and elderly customers in each of our markets