View with Opera!

Social networking across devices: opportunity and risk for disabled and older users

Henny Swan, Opera Software

Mobile browsing and social networking today

"Social Networking is popular worldwide and is the leading source of Web traffic for mobile devices."

Opera's State of the Mobile Web Report, April 2008

“…over 50 percent of consumers would substitute their Internet usage on a PC for a mobile device...Worldwide adoption of the mobile phone as the preferred device for accessing the Internet is just around the corner.”

2008 survey on mobile usage, Dr Sungyoul Lee,IBM

"...there are 78 million boomers — roughly three times the number of teenagers — and most of them are Internet users who learned computer skills in the workplace. Indeed, the number of Internet users who are older than 55 is roughly the same as those who are aged 18 to 34."

New social sites cater to people of a certain age, New York Times


...all this on the move and on your device of choice (aka-aki).


...a danger of technology disabling the people it should be enabling.


CAPTCHA and Screen readers are incompatible and difficult for most users. Audio alternatives often distorted problematic on a mobile.

Numerous logins difficult to manage, difficult to port from one network to another.

Navigation, presentation and layout
Complex, busy, non-standard and confusing. Lack of skip links, poor keyboard access, poor link text inaccessible tooltips.

User generated content
The interface of a social network plus generated content must be accessible.
Lack of meaningful alternatives for sites such as Flickr, YouTube, SlideShare, forums, blogs etc.

Rich Internet Applications
Lack of JavaScript support, lack of help text.

"Where's my Google box!"

Patricia, 64 first ever female executive at ABC Sports, now suffers from fibromyalgia.

Ways standards?

Antidotes include ReCaptcha, CaptchaKiller and WebVisum (a SN of solutions)
Industry collaboration needed to find an alternative means to fight spam.

Using OpenID, OpenDD, OAuth. Ability to port ID, accessibility and presentation preferences.

Ways forward...existing guidelines

Navigation, presentation and layout
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0): refers to web content produced by website owners and developers.
Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0 (MWBP 1.0): refers to mobile content produced by website owners and developers.

User generated content
Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines1.0 (ATAG 1.0): CMS, WYSIWYG, HTML editors, blogs, forums, social networks.

Rich Internet Applications
WAI Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI ARIA): accessible ajax within web content produced by website owners and developers.
WAI ARIA User Agent Implementation Guide: how browsers can support WAI ARIA. Must work with access technology vendors.

Ways and innovation

Bringing together disabled and older users with the web development community to create accessible solutions for sites people want:

Scripting Enabled - JavaScript supports accessibility

Ethical hack days (London and Seattle) creating accessible social networks and sites. So far: Easy YouTube, Slideshare, Flickr working on Google maps, Twitter directions.

Project: Possibility - education and open source

Nonprofit project in US universities creating open source software for persons with disabilities. Projects include: barcode reader, mobile currency reader, community captioner.

Fluid Project - accessible functionality library

An open source software focused on building commonly used pieces of accessible functionality that easily integrate into existing applications. Infusion component library and toolkit.

Benefits beyond accessibility

Improved overall usability

Cut down development time / costs

Show me the money

Looking forward

Thank you and get in touch


Web: and

Twitter: iheni

My slides and a transcript will be available on my blog