Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Andrew Arch of W3C Visits Technosite

On the way back from giving a paper at the Workshop on Cognitive Ergonomics and the Web in Granada (also attended by my Technosite colleague Nacho Madrid) Dr Andrew Arch visited Technosite HQ in Madrid. Andrew now works with the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) at W3C. He is their WAI-AGE Web Accessibility and Ageing Specialist and visited Technosite to learn more about the needs of the elderly regarding Web accessibility in Spain.

Technosite's Sociology Research Group, lead by Luis Miguel Bascones as part of the Inredis project, together with our colleague Antonio Jiménez Lara, informed him about the results of their research and the “focus groups” they have carried out with elderly people about their use of the Internet together with researchers José Gimeno and Mercedes Turrero. We then went on to a meeting with Carlos Martínez Ozcáriz and Paca Tricio of the Unión Democrática de Pensionistas (Democratic Union of Pensioners and Retired People), who informed us about the needs and demands of their more than one million members.

Andrew Arch is carrying out a Literature Review and Analysis of Comparative Needs regarding the needs of people who have Web accessibility needs related to ageing as part of the WAI-AGE (Ageing, Education, and Harmonisation) project at W3C for the European Commission.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Farewell Witty

Yesterday I received the sad news that Witty, Lourdes' guide dog passed away on Saturday. When they first told us someone was coming to work at the office with a dog it seemed such a strange idea, but Witty was so amiable, fun and well behaved that she won us over right away. All of us enjoyed her being with us in the office. I just hope that the process of being assigned a new dog by ONCE won't take too long. Apparently it can take 18 months to a year.

On a happier note, we have a new colleague with us, Sara, who is guided by Jep, a black Labrador. Even Jep was in danger recently having swallowed three socks but I'm glad to say that he seems to have recovered now after his operation.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

How People with Mobile Phones Use the Web

Lately the WAI Education & Outreach Working Group and the Mobile Web Best Practices Working Group have been working on ways to help their respective stakeholders better understand the relationships between Web content accessibility for people with disabilities and mobile-friendliness. We have produced a draft of a good by rather lengthy document, but it has become apparent that we need something shorter, less detailed and easier to understand. There is what we call the “shared experiences” document, Experiences Shared by People with Disabilities and by People Using Mobile Devices that illustrates that the barriers experienced by people with disabilities are often paralleled by those imposed by the design features of mobile devices but I think that there is a need for an even more high-level introductory document that would help people understand the mobile Web experience from the user's point of view. This would be for accessibility people and for inexperienced mobile Web developers. It is something that is often misunderstood.

There's a document produced by the EOWG (still an internal draft after all these years) called How People with Disabilities Use the Web. It has three main sections:

  1. Scenarios of People with Disabilities Using the Web
  2. Different Disabilities That Can Affect Web Accessibility
  3. Assistive Technologies and Adaptive Strategies

For the mobile context the first two translate into:

  1. Scenarios of people using the Web on mobile devices
  2. Different aspects of the mobile Web context that can affect the user experience

The third doesn't seem to have an equivalent as there isn't normally much the user can do about the barriers caused by web content. But then again perhaps they can plug in alphanumeric keyboards or use plug-in large screens.

Mobile scenarios might include:

  • Bill lives in a developing country, his family has a shared mobile phone that he uses to browse the Web. There are no fixed Internet connections or computers in his village. It has a small black and white screen. Connection charges are high so he can only use it occasionally
  • Ben is a frequent flier who uses his top-end smartphone to keep up with business news in airports. It has a large color screen and an alphanumeric keyboard. He carries another phone for voice calls. His company pays all his connection charges.
  • Jill is blind and uses her mobile with a screen reader to catch up on the news during her one-hour commute to work. She doesn't care about the visual layout of Web pages as she can't see them, but does appreciate a simple layout with clear structure.

The section "different aspects of the mobile Web context that can affect the user experience" would analyze the aspects covered in the scenarios, and relate them to the Mobile Web Best Practices. For example:

  • Small screen
  • High network charges
  • Numeric keypad

This document would link to the “shared experiences” document which would provide a link between the Mobile Web Best Practices and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines recommendations.