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Experiences Shared by People with Disabilities and by People Using Mobile Devices
[Editor's Draft, 13 March 2008]

Status: This document is an early draft. Please send comments to wai-eo-editors@w3.org (a publicly archived list).

People with disabilities (using desktop or laptop computers) and people without disabilities who are using mobile devices have similar interaction limitations and experience similar barriers when interacting with Web sites. There is also significant overlap between the design solutions for both. This document aims to provide some examples of experiences shared by people with disabilities and by people using mobile devices. For more information about the overlap between W3C guidelines for accessibility and best practices for mobile devices, please refer to Web Content Accessibility and Mobile Web: Making a Web Site Accessible Both for People with Disabilities and for Mobile Devices.

Examples of Shared Experiences

The table below provides examples of barriers to interacting with Web content experienced by people with disabilities and people using mobile devices. Mobile devices vary widely and not all the problems are present on all models. It includes links to some relevant solutions in the WCAG 2.0 Quick Reference for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Working Draft (including guidelines and success criteria (SC)) and Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0.

Interaction and navigation requires mouse

User is unable to navigate all content, or wastes time moving through numerous links.

Disabilities Context: User with a motor disability may not be able to use a mouse.

Mobile Context: Device has no mouse, only alphanumeric keypad or rocker switch.

Information conveyed using color

User perceives color incorrectly or not at all, and so misunderstands information, makes mistakes, or misses information.

Disabilities Context: User who is blind or colorblind perceives color incorrectly or not at all.

Mobile Context: Screen has limited color palette and color difference is not presented. Device is used in poor lighting (for example, outdoors), so colors are not clearly perceived.

Large page or large images

User only sees small areas at a time ("keyhole view"), unable to relate different areas of page, becomes disoriented or has to scroll excessively.

Disabilities Context: User with restricted field of vision or using screen magnifier get only small part of page or image at a time.

Mobile Context: Mobile device has small screen (viewport).

Multimedia with no captions

User misses auditory information.

Disabilities Context: User who is deaf or hard of hearing can't hear.

Mobile Context: Mobile users often in public places (trains, hotel lobbies) turn off sound; often in noisy places (streets, nightclubs) can't hear.

Audio-only prompts (beeps, buzzes) for important information (warnings, errors)

Can't operate or interact correctly with content, misses warnings, makes mistakes.

Disabilities Context: User who is deaf or hard of hearing can't operate content.

Mobile Context: In noisy place (street, nightclub) can't hear.

Free-text entry (for example, alphabetical characters allowed in numeric fields)

User enters text incorrectly, makes mistakes.

Disabilities Context: User with motor disability (partial paralysis, hand tremor, lack of sensitivity, coordination) has difficulty entering information.

Mobile Context: Device has small keypad, or is held in unsteady hand.

Embedded non-text objects (images, sound, video) with no text alternative

Information loss due to lack of alternative. User can't perceive information.

Disabilities Context: User with low bandwidth or who declines to run up connection charges. Already small images re-dimensioned even smaller in adaptation, become meaningless.

Mobile Context: User who is blind or color blind can't perceive content. Information not available to user whose user agent doesn't support object or with slow connection making it unreasonable to wait for download.

Important information in non-text content (images, multimedia, CSS effects)

User misses important information.

Disabilities Context: User who is blind or colorblind can't perceive content.

Mobile Context: User billed for download volume, turns off images to save costs. Device has no CSS support.

Long words, long and complex sentences, jargon

User has difficulty understanding information.

Disabilities Context: User with cognitive disability has difficulty processing information.

Mobile Context: Text is displayed in small font, and user is often distracted by ambient conditions (background noise, conversations, moving objects in field of vision).

Content formatted using tables or CSS, and reading order not correct when linearized (for example when CSS or tables not rendered)

Content is garbled.

Disabilities Context: Non-visual (screen reader) user reads content in document tree order.

Mobile Context: Meaning of content altered by reformatting or restructuring in adaptation process.

Scripting required to operate or generate content

Information loss. Content inoperable.

Disabilities Context: User's assistive technology or browser doesn't support scripting.

Mobile Context: Scripting turned off or not supported.

Special plugin required

User can not perceive content or can not operate interface.

Disabilities Context: Plugin turned off, not installed, not compatible with assistive technology. Plugin not operable with preferred input device.

Mobile Context: Plugin turned off or not installed; not compatible with input device (for example, requires mouse).

Invalid or unsupported markup

Browser or adaptation system chokes on markup; rejects or garbles it.

Disabilities Context: User's assistive technology or browser can't handle markup.

Mobile Context: Mobile device has embedded browser not catered for by content provider. Content passes through adaptation process(es).

Content spawns new windows without warning user

User becomes disoriented among widows; back button doesn't work. User closes window, not realizing it is last in stack, closing browser instance.

Disabilities Context: User with low vision, restricted field of vision, or blindness doesn't realize active window is new.

Mobile Context: Single window interface. Multiple stacked windows on small screen hide each other.

Information conveyed only using CSS (visual formatting)

Information lost or altered.

Disabilities Context: Blind user doesn't perceive visual formatting effects.

Mobile Context: Often no CSS support by mobile browser.

Content blinks, moves, scrolls or auto-updates

User has difficulty reading and comprehending content.

Disabilities Context: People with reading disabilities, cognitive limitations, and learning disabilities do not have sufficient time to read or comprehend information.

Mobile Context: Reduced size of mobile viewport or poor ambient lighting make it difficult to see content.

Long page title, with generic information first and differentiating information last

User has difficulty reading list, misses important information at end of title.

Disabilities Context: Page titles are used to generate a list of links in site map, screen reader user, person with reading disability or reduced field of vision can't scan the page and reads repetitive information first.

Mobile Context: Page title truncated to fit narrow viewport of mobile device.

Focus (tab) order does not match logical document content sequence

User is unable to navigate content in logical sequence, become disoriented.

Disabilities Context: User with (for example) motor disability uses keyboard for navigation not mouse.

Mobile Context: Pointing device not present or inadequate.

Mobile user incurs delay and cost, due to network charges and device limitations. User with disability becomes confused or disorientated; arrives at inaccessible content. [@@ Note these are different]

Disabilities Context: User can not determine purpose of link

Mobile Context: User can not determine purpose of link.

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