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6th European eAccessibility Forum
Putting eAccessibility at the core of information systems

26/03/2012, 9:00 - 18:00
Cité des sciences et de l'industrie, Paris

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Mobile applications made accessible for all

Susanna Laurin (Stockholm, Sweden)
Funka Nu AB

Speaker's information

Photo Susanna Laurin

Susanna Laurin has a back ground from the organization of the visually impaired and the independent living institute, both in Sweden. She has been at Funka Nu AB since 2003, combining the CEO work with consulting in guidelines, testing and leading web development projects. She is a frequent speaker at many international events and also an expert in standardization bodies in Sweden, Norway and EU.



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Her presentation on mobile interfaces for all will cover:

Accessibility in mobile interfaces

I'm old enough to have experienced the IT revolution for people with disabilities. It was really a revolution, when people who previously have had to ask for help to get information and perform services could suddenly read the paper at the same time as everyone else (not next week, when it came with the mail, recorded on tape or CD) , pay their bills themself, study and work in an entirely new and much more equal way. The combination of Internet development and assistive technology made many people became much more independent.

And now it has happened again. Though this time it's actually even more fantastic to be part of. When smartphones became the most hyped item one might have, several things happened. I would say that from an accessibility perspective, this is one of the best, largest and most democratic developments that has happened in terms of information and communication.

We were all disabled

Everyone that has tried to type an email address on your mobile as the bus or train suddenly jumps, knows that it can be quite difficult. The need for large and clear clicks surfaces, an old recommendation for the Web for people with motor difficulties, has now become an essential starting point for useful mobile interface.

As we bring our mobiles everywhere, we do use it outdoors, with all the implications of the sun in your eyes, glare on the screen and poor lighting conditions. This means that the old recommendation requiring good enough contrast for people with low eyesight or color blindness will be important for all users.

On a small screen the navigation simply has to be consistent, understandable and clear. Although it is an old rule, it is quite impossible to launch a navigation that moves around and change its looks, or to have the links too close to each other.

Many touch-screen interfaces are designed on the basis that you hold the phone with your right hand and use your thumb to execute commands on the screen. This means that all left-handers have a problem.

Inclusion and Mainstreaming

Within the politics of disability, the goal has been for many years that of an inclusive society, with products designed so that everybody can use them. This is usually called mainstreaming. This is achieved by starting with the concept of design for all, as opposed to special solutions, which is a bad, customized version, created afterwards, when you realize that the original product does not work for people with disabilities.

Smartphones success story around the world is the ultimate proof that the design for all pays off. The Iphone was not designed as assistive technology for people with disabilities, but by working with user-centered design and following U.S. laws on accessibility, Apple has been successful in creating a product that works very well for many users. A hip product that everyone wants to own. That if something is good return on investment!

In the future, we do not need special phones with large buttons or special tools for reading out loud – the user can decide the design of the buttons and the synthetic voice is already built in the main product.

Mobility is the key

Most of us would probably survive without going down the street talking on the phone or surfing the Internet while driving the car. Once upon a time, we did, after all. But to many people with disabilities, mobility is in itself a very important issue. A person who has difficulties orienting him- or herself in the environment or need instructions on the way, risks becoming isolated.

With the help and support the user can get from a smart phone, many of these difficulties can be overcome, especially when combined with the inherent capabilities of mobile GPS navigation, camera that can be used to scan text to be read out loud and the possibility of speech recognition.

So, what am I supposed to do?

The international accessibility guidelines, WCAG 2.0, is lacking detailed principles for mobile interfaces. With more and more users - regardless of ability, needs or facilities - surfing with a smart phone, the need for expertise in this area is increasing. Funka has developed guidelines for accessible mobile interface with the financial support from the swedish Internet Foundation. Please use them!




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