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Apps Risk Creating New World of Exclusion, Report Finds

Developers of mobile apps must build in “as much choice, adaptability and flexibility as possible” to their products to maximise accessibility for disabled people, or risk creating a whole new world of digital exclusion, a new report finds.

‘Moving together: mobile apps for inclusion and assistance’ ( ) was written by E-Access Bulletin editor Dan Jellinek with Peter Abrahams of Bloor Research, on behalf of the OneVoice for Accessible IT Coalition.

The report details a number of key issues facing elderly and disabled users of mobile apps, and makes recommendations for improving the accessibility of such apps.

One emerging area in the field is that of apps for assistance which use ‘crowdsourcing’ to assist users, the report found. These are apps which draw on the knowledge base of a group to provide information or help to other users, such as the iPhone app VizWiz, which allows users to take a photo of something, record a question about the picture, and then ‘crowdsource’ the answer from a team of online workers.

Speaking to E-Access Bulletin, Peter Abrahams, co-author of the report, said accessible apps could enable disabled users “to be independent in ways they could not be in the non-digital environment.” However, “if the app is not accessible then the disabled person will be disenfranchised and marginalised. This is morally, ethically, financially and legally unacceptable”, Abrahams said.

Mobile device retailers should ensure sales staff have training in basic disability awareness and use of the Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI) database, run by the Mobile Manufacturers Forum ( ), to provide customers with accessibility information, the report says.

The report was launched last month at the inaugural Annual General Meeting of the One Voice for Accessible ICT Coalition, a collection of private, public and third sector groups committed to helping businesses and organisations improve their ICT accessibility. At the meeting, coalition members signed a set of principles detailing their commitment to promote and increase the uptake and delivery of accessible online and mobile services.

The coalition has also drawn-up a ‘Seven Steps’ guide to basic mobile app accessibility for app designers and implementers:

All these steps are designed to help overcome the idea that accessibility is too complicated, Abrahams said. “They also emphasise the fact that accessibility is not just about getting the technical coding right, but goes right through the cycle from commissioning to dealing with feedback.”


  1. James Coltham | April 19th, 2012 | 10:24 am

    Excellent piece of work, well done Dan and Peter!

  2. Martin Sloan | April 19th, 2012 | 3:17 pm

    Good piece of research, which highlights the importance of ensuring that some of the mistakes from web 1.0 aren’t repeated with the shift to mobile apps.

    As a companion piece, I’ve blogged today about some of the legal issues and how the likes of the Equality Act applies to mobile apps.

  3. Roger Wilson-Hinds FRSA | April 23rd, 2012 | 10:24 am

    This is great stuff. I spoke with Dan around Christmas time and we thought an Apps Accessibility Day for leading influencers might b a great way forward.
    We are working on something for blind, partially sighted and older people forthe Android phone. Very easy to use, info on where you are, what’s around, bus info as you journey, voice recognition access to Twitter, Texts etc and a few more goodies. Its a mighty challenge but we have good backers and will gladly share our knowledge with others.

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