Accessibility Technology

Panel: Inclusive Mobile for Everyone – Challenges

This was a panel discussion with several panelists.  Please accept my apologies in advance for spotty / crappy coverage 🙂

Captioning was provided, host asked that people didn’t “company bash”  haha nice touch

Panelists Government and Industry Leaders

  • Holly Nielsen – host
  • Brian Cragun – moderator
  • Bruce Bailey – Access Board of US
  • Peter Korn – Oracle Accessibility guy (missed his title)
  • Rich Schwerdtfeger – CTO of Accessibility at IBM
  • Pirthipal Singh – Team leader of Web Standards office in treasury board of Canada (similar to OMB in the US)
  • Madeleine Rothberg of WGBH
  • Andrew Arch – Assistant Director of government management office within dept of finance of the Australian government

Pirthipal – students want to do everything from a mobile device.  Companies need to understand where their next gen of customers is coming from.  Daisy and Bookshare; eBooks.  Seeing a ton of media consumption and “second screen usage” on mobile devices.

Peter – 3 years at Oracle.  Focused on how big they are.  140,000 empoyees, 390,000 customers, more big numbers.  Have Java tech (ME and embedded via Sun) which is used pretty much everywhere.  Been to CSUN developers.  Co-developed outspoken SR, worked on Java, GNOME, etc.  Worked on 508 refresh group.  We make a lot of enterprise applications, customers want to run them on mobile, so we’re interested in it.

Bruce (on phone) – US Access Board.  Working to harmonize standards with the rest of the world.  Been involved with AT for 20 years.  Moving “up the chain” has removed him from the down-and-dirty of AT, which is a bittersweet thing for him.  Mobile devices are the poster child for why the current standards are unworkable int their current form; hard to apply the standard to them.  508 has a large loophole for commercial nonavailability (tell me about it), we want mainstream tech to have it built in.

Pirth – what we’ve learned from doing accessibility on the web can be applied to mobile.  Developing standards wasn’t enough…we have 106 departments and agencies…need to come together.  Their project is up on github…search for “WET” and you’ll find it.  PAUL – I think this is the repo “Web Experience Toolkit”

Andrew – Australia was one of the first countries to adopt WCAG 1.  Have 4 year trategy for implementing WCAG2.  Had tremendous uptake.  Been working with the web since the early 90s and accessibility for about 15 years.  BYOD is very seriously on the agenda of the Austrailian govt right now.  Some say mobile isn’t web site, so those standards don’t necessarily apply.

Rich – over 20 years in the business.  Development community is excited about working with AT now and implementing it in mainstream devices.  There’s a lot of challenges out there now, how do we educate communities.  Not everything is fully baked, particularly with the web.  For example, iOS doesn’t have a keyboard unless you’re in an input field or content editable area.  Working on projects like IndieUI that can help standardize things like zoom, open, close, without worrying what generated the command.  Many apps are a combination of web and native platforms.  Lots of innovation, but also a lot of challenges.

Andrew – What do you see as the biggest obstacles to business / govt integration of mobile into their infrastructure.

Brian – Security

Richard – yes.  Siri is a great technology, but your requests go off to Apple and that’s a potential security issue.

Pirth – tech is changing so rapidly, some devices have good security, some don’t.  Biggest challenge is not being able to identify, say, the 3 – 5 platforms or devices to support.

Bruce – too much attention is paid to “sexy” tech like Google Glass.  How about just delivering plain old cross-platform services?  (word up, yo – Paul aside)

Richard – mobile browsers have not done all the performance enhancements that you have on the mobile device.  Some things like Dojo are slow when put on mobile (Paul:  dojo is pretty fat, mobile networks are carrying fatter and fatter web sites and apps that seem to assume a desktop browser with a broadband connection).

Madeleine – we don’t know yet what makes for a great mobile interface.  We have to relearn how we interact with our devices.  Need to go back and do a LOT more usability testing.

Peter – we’re tightly connected with 508 and CVAA and anything we adopt is:  what does it mean to require that a mobile device be accessible?  For example:  big screen for people with mobility issues.  Some choices that are good for one device will not be appropriate for others.  There’s a disconnect between the structure of the regulations and the structure of the enabling law.  How do you regulate it?

Andrew – having multiple devices makes the layering of security on top of them a pretty sticky issue.  How many layers do we need to have to keep govt information / citizen’s info safe and secure?

Brian – what are the conflicts we see in the enterprise with BYOD and how do we address those?

Peter – focusing on accessibility component – who buys the accommodation?  do we assume the employee pays out of pocket?  That’s at odds with our idea of what the ADA stands for.  Then there’s the training component.  What if the built-in AT doesn’t meet my needs?  If we stuff a desktop OS into a device (like Microsoft, that may be an option.  But for the most part, that’s an issue right now.

Madeleine – multiplicity of formats is an issue.  Need to be able to push training out to people when they need it.  There are many players, video formats, captioning availability, etc will be an ongoing issue.

Richard – our CIO wants to promote this – move as much toward we-based technology and components that are already accessible on mobile devices.  Example:  Notes mail, put an Exchange server as a front end to notes mail.  We also need to address the functional performance criteria.  Permutations are a challenge.

Audience question – mobile device management – what about policies assigned to specific applications…how do we make use of accessibility as a policy?  For example, certain applications may not provide access (like logins).

Brian – MDM policies need to ba able to be pushed out to the end points.

Peter – a variant of the general problem tied to BYOD.  Certain features may be turned off in certain environment for certain reasons, which can be a problem for some users.  accessibility often requires more

Audience question – is there overlap between what’s being done here and what might be expected within the school systems within the next 10 years?  Obliquely referred to digital divide (who pays)

Madeleine – there is a lot of overlap between the environments (students at school, employees at a corporation).  Some policies in schools are designed to keep kids safe.  Where it differs is the mandatory nature of the funding.  Mandates are in different places.

Bruce – a big challenge is where school systems and govts are selecting / endorsing devices that are or don’t have good accessibility.  What happens when that selection differs from personal user preferences.

Peter – trend toward built-in accessibility doesn’t always meet every need, but that also makes it more affordable for everyone.  If every phone is $100 – $200 and it comes with a built-in SR, that’s really going to make things more affordable and somewhat easier for everyone.

Brian paraphrasing audience question – what are the thoughts on equivalent facilitation that might allow us leapfrog to new kinds of technologies or interfaces?

Richard – The do indirectly.  It’s almost taken equivalent facilitation and putting it on steroids.  We hae equivalent facilitation, and then we have functional performance criteria. Context awareness and adaptation, this is how you meet accessibility on mobile devices (like an iPhone user taking a pic with instagram).  What we are dealing with now is a complex visualization technology.  Our solutions in some cases may not be rich enough to meet every need.

Pirth – Canadian govt is def meeting WCAG2.  Our web apps are optimized for mobile devices, using responsive design, HTML5, WAI-ARIA, etc.  That gets us a long way toward meeting this goal.  The same info services should be widely available.

Peter – equivalent facilitation cannot be emphasized enough (508f) – textual info shall be provided using the OS mechanisms for displaying text.  Java couldn’t do that, and what about UNIX?  There is none.  This is why accessiblity API was developed.  This is how we prefer to do everything.

Bruce – equivalent facilitation comes out of ADA and then was used in current 508. That concept is not going away  Equivalent facilitation is here to stay.

Andrew – IndieUI is fantastic but now here yeat.  Still being worked out, still to be standardized, how to operate.  Devs are asking what do we do, what is our responsibility, where does the repsonsibility of the users start and stop.

Madeleine – 21st century communications video and accessibility act.  Hardware manufacturers are required to make their devices accessible.  If devices come pre-loaded with apps, those tools need to be accessible too (video chat).  3rd party apps are other people’s responsibility.




By Paul Schantz

CSUN Director of Web & Technology Services, Student Affairs. husband, father, gamer, part time aviator, fitness enthusiast, Apple fan, and iguana wrangler.

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