Accessible Mobile Experiences

flosssnailsMobile - Wireless

Dec 10, 2013 (4 years and 7 months ago)


Accessible Mobile Experiences

Guidelines? Standards? Anybody?

Katja Forbes, Perceptive UX

OZeWAI, December 1


Hello Alice. Welcome to Wonderland.


The journey begins….

If you do a web search for “Mobile Accessibility
Standards” you’re going to be disappointed.

There are no universally accepted accessibility standards
for mobile.

With Web Content Accessibility
Guidelines (WCAG) either you did
do it or you didn’t. Mobile is much
more vague.


What standards apply to mobile?

A few years ago there was a research project which
looked at exactly that.

Map the Mobile Web Best Practices to WCAG 2.0!

Last updated in Jun 2009


Since June 2009 this has happened…

iPhone 3Gs with VoiceOver, iPhone 4 and iPhone
4s with Siri all released

Android: Donut, Éclair (x2), FroYo, Gingerbread,
Honeycomb, Honeycomb 1.1…some more
Honeycombs and an Ice cream Sandwich!

Windows phone 7 and 7.5 Mango

iPad 1 and iPad 2

Galaxy tab, Blackberry Playbook, HP Slate…


What is the ‘mobile wonderland’ today?


We have:

Mobile smart phones

Tablets such as iPad

Kindle Fire and other e

‘Mobile wonderland’ is also made up of…


4 very different operating systems:

Apple iOS

Android (whatever yummy thing
is installed on your device)

Windows Phone


So what else?


We have:

Native Applications or ‘apps’

Hybrid Apps

HTML 5 Apps

Touch Tablet specific apps.....

Mobile web (maybe…)



This is really hard.


1. Stay focussed on accessibility.

If we try to design for all these different
operating systems then we just end up
designing for mobile diversity, not for

Use it but don’t get overwhelmed by the

Design for the human capabilities, not the


What’s the mobile experience?

“Mobile, by definition, is disabling. Poor
light, small keyboards, glare, touch, etc.

Henny Swan,
Senior Accessibility Specialist at the BBC

A smart phone or tablet is basically
“pictures under glass

Bret Victor, Former Apple

People do choose their devices based on
what accessibility features they offer



Remember not all people who are visually impaired are
blind. The needs of partially sighted people or people with
low vision can be different. We have an aging population
many of whom have degenerating eyesight.

Aural or tactile feedback

Tactile markers to orientate fingers

Adjustable fonts

Colour is critical

Voice recognition to complete tasks



A range of visual alerts

Easy volume control

Visual display of any activity such as
missed, received and dialed calls,
messages successfully sent or received

Captioning video is really really vital!

2 way video conferencing can be useful if
‘signing’ is a preferred language



Hands free actions

Predictive text

Minimise input

Voice recognition

Any key answer or voice answer (e.g
Nuance Voice control)





Instant messaging

Multimedia messaging

Predictive text…again



Choice between audio, visual or
vibrating alerts when a call

Keys provide audio, visual and tactile

Popular functions such as placing a call
can be controlled by repeating pre
recorded voice commands

Help menus designed to anticipate the
information being sought

Keypad shortcuts to make every step
quick and efficient


And remember our older citizens

Our Australian population is aging.

Our respected elders (people aged 65 to 84
years) are expected to more than double
between now and 2050

Our really venerated elders (people 85 and
over) is expected to more than quadruple

Older people are most likely going to have
to manage with a bit of all the disabilities


What’s on offer?

Apple is demonstrating a very serious
commitment to accessibility.

The experience is consistent and
predictable but has mostly been
concentrated on the visually impaired

VoiceOver, their text to speech solution

Assistive Touch, helping motor impaired

Siri, fun for everyone


Who’s next?

Android is demonstrating a very seriously
fractured approach to accessibility.

There are around 45 handset and tablet
manufacturers running on various versions
of the OS.

It’s not inbuilt and there is no consistency

As at June 2011, 131 accessibility apps

BUT! At least they’re trying really hard!


Some can do better…

With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft didn’t
even try.

Windows Phone 7 (WP7), did not
include the accessibility components that
were part of earlier Microsoft mobile
operating systems.

WP 7.5 Mango moved towards more
accessible features with voice
recognition and some text to speech


And lastly….

Blackberry mean well

They have accessibility feature matrices
on 11 devices

It’s mostly about the hardware


2. Guidelines must be technology agnostic

Mobile technology is fractured, changing
and incredibly diverse

85% of people expect mobile experience
to be AT LEAST AS GOOD as desktop

Josh Clark

So lets get out of these woods and go
check out some trees!


So if there is no mobile web?

A good accessible and responsive design should
solve most of our problems.

‘Responsive’ means design and development
should respond to the person’s behaviour and
environment based on screen size, platform and

If a website is already accessible via the desktop
then its most likely to be mobile friendly as well.

And we can use the guidelines we already have


Guidelines work for responsive design

Everything is flexible

Showing and hiding content must be

A guideline? Do we have a winner?

Yes! WCAG Guideline 1.3: Adaptable!
Come on down!


Where am I going with this?

The majority of what we have in WCAG 2.0
still holds true for what we’re trying to do in
mobile device wonderland.

The fundamental principles of WCAG 2.0,
perceivable, operable, understandable and
robust, still apply here.

Lets look at another example of how.


Oh please remember colour!

This is pretty basic!

Colour contrast

Using colour to convey meaning

What works here from WCAG?

Guideline 1.4 Distinguishable: Make it easier
for users to see and hear content including
separating foreground from background.


blindness and mobile games

"It's one of the easiest disabilities to
avoid prejudicing if you catch your
mistake. Deaf gamers need subtitles,
problem gamers need limited
games with difficulty levels, blind gamers
need completely bespoke games, autistic
gamers can't deal with non
games, but we just need you to think
about your colour palette.”

Games industry
writer Dan Griliopoulos, who is colour blind.


blindness and mobile games

Enemies you need to distinguish between
are often are red and green

Puzzle games rely on colours to
differentiate same
shaped objects.

Careful selection of colour for buttons is


Let’s talk about text to speech

An app or mobile site is not a book

People listen to enough to orientate
themselves and then move on.

There are different modes

Text to speech doesn’t just read

Not just for visually impaired. People with
dyslexia also use text to speech to read
digital written content.


Labelling with text to speech in mind

There are a lot of buttons in apps helping
to navigate around.

The language used in labelling is really

Don’t be bossy.

Don’t double up.

Use native controls


Mobile video? Make sure its captioned

There is a lot of video available on
mobile and its one of the most
consumed types of content.

People who are deaf or have
hearing loss want to access all this
content accessibly, which is tough
on mobile devices.

WCAG 1.2.2/1.2.4 Captions
(Prerecorded/Live): Captions are
provided for all prerecorded/live
audio content in synchronized


What are the captioning options?

Just go for open captions that are always
visible which aren’t ideal.

Add closed captions to M4V movies
playable on various Apple devices

Add subtitles to M4V files targeted for
iTunes and the iPhone.

Add closed
description tracks to movies
playable using iTunes, the iPhone and iPod


There’s more than one way to do things

Inform events in multiple ways.

Don’t just have one way of achieving a


Supporting dexterity challenges

Make sure the touch targets are big enough
for people with dexterity challenges.

Window Phone 7 actually does have
something to offer here with its ‘big tile’
user interface.

Choose smart defaults

Use alternate methods to input information


Test, test, test

If you have a smart phone, you have a
screen reader. Test your designs. There is
no excuse.

Test with real people who have real
accessibility needs

Iterate and test again!

Learn from your mistakes and make your
next try better.


So, to sum up…

‘Mobile Wonderland’ is extremely
diverse and complex to navigate

We have to stay focussed on
accessibility, not mobile diversity

Our guiding principles must be
technology agnostic

Let’s use what we already have and
adapt as we learn more


Thank you!



With many thanks to:

Henny Swan

Michael Lockrey

Diana Watts

Michael Caulfield