The future of mobile accessibility, a hopeful lookout

In case you haven’t read it yet: Nokia acquires Trolltech. DougT also posted a follow-up article on the future, or lack thereof, of Symbian S60/S40, which you can find here.

For accessibility, this currently provokes mixed feelings. On the one side, the S60 platform has been a very successful accessibility story, with Talks and Mobile Speak being the most prominent representatives of access to this platform. Blind and low-vision users have come to depend on accessibility to their mobile phone’s contacts, short messages, MP3 capabilities or even navigational aids. To a much lesser extent, this is also true for Windows Mobile-based smartphones, but like in the world of general customers, this has taken off much less than Symbian has.

On the other hand, this move to an open-source embedded solution for future generations of Nokia phones may become an even greater accessibility success story. With the Gnome Accessibility proceedings on a very good way to wide-spread adoption, KDE needs to follow, or they’ll fall by the wayside with government organizations sooner or later. While KDE’s accessibility efforts are, compared to Gnome, still in a rather limited state of development, QT has made some significant progress in that it has become accessible on Windows recently by using Microsoft’s Active Accessibility.

It is my hope that not only can Gnome and KDE agree on sharing a unified interface for AT vendors, as expressed in this early posting on AT-SPI, but that IAccessible2 and Mac Universal access will also join forces in an effort to provide compelling access to a wide range of technologies. With this in place, this could also be carried over to a wide range of embedded solutions, providing a solid accessibility architecture on which screen readers and other assistive technologies can be built. In addition, this would make it a lot easier for software developers to ensure the accessibility of their applications.


5 thoughts on “The future of mobile accessibility, a hopeful lookout

  1. Common brands with many customers are vulnerable for sudden image desasters such as Nokia has today and probably they will have this problem tomorrow as well. Future mobile devices will provide companies such as Nokia or mobile network operators with masses of data about location, behaviour, interests and social networks of their customers. This will make the user privacy transparent for these companies and could be perceived as a risk for potential abuse. Microsoft and Google already have similar problems. The motto “Don’t be evil, Don’t be neutral, be good” should be an imaginable part of Nokia’s strategy for further PR-work. Helping their blind or otherwise handicaped customers could be a way for that:


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