On mobile accessibility: learning from our desktop ancestors




Minifie, Darren

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The art and science of creating effective mobile software has become significantly more important since on-the-go computing has taken centre stage in users’ daily lives. This area of application development introduces many new constraints not commonly found in mainstream desktop computing. Misunderstood user requirements, limited hardware resources and reduced software services all contribute to an environment foreign to many developers. In its infancy, accessible desktop computing faced many of these same constraints. Individuals with disabilities generated unconventional user requirements, hardware specific to accommodating the disabled had yet to be developed, and third-party assistive services were not implemented. As such, developers were forced to create unique programs and user interfaces to deliver effective solutions. In this thesis I propose that the creation of mobile software should draw from that which was learned from the creation of its accessible desktop predecessors. To support this claim, I present four case studies. These examples include a system to automate the lookup of transit scheduling information, a music collection browser, a framework for presenting flowchart-like data structures, and a language learning tool. In each case study, an accessibility-related problem is solved on the desktop without the reliance of third-party assistive support. Therefore, it follows that these applications translate to mobile platforms much more cleanly than applications dependant upon adaptive services. This claim is validated by evaluating a prototypical mobile implementation of each example. This evaluation implied a positive correlation between accessibility-minded desktop applications and their general-purpose mobile counterparts. Based on these results, I believe it is in developers’ best interest to consider accessible desktop applications as reference implementations when designing effective mobile software.



Accessibility, Mobile