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Mobile Accessibility

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This is an internal planning page.


Symposium Chairs

Scientific Committee


Web Accessibility, Mobile Web, WCAG, UAAG, WAI-ARIA, MWBP, MWABP, Touch Events


The mobile world is rapidly evolving with increasingly sophisticated devices, platforms, APIs, applications, and web browsers. Also the complexity of web content and applications provided via mobile devices has become increasingly sophisticated. At the same time, the many sensors and gauges deployed on mobile devices are being utilized to provide new interaction paradigms such as touch events and gestures.

While these developments provide vast opportunities opportunities for people with disabilities they also entail accessibility challenges. In particular, it is not sufficiently clear how well existing standards such as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG), Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA), Mobile Web Best Practice (MWBP), Mobile Web Application Best Practice (MWABP), Touch Events, and others address accessibility in the mobile context, despite some initial work on mapping between WCAG and MWBP. There is a need to better understand these challenges and to develop a roadmap to guide further research and development activities.

Mobile Technology and Accessibility

Mobile devices are changing the way people access the Web and it is no longer safe to say that a specific device or set of devices will be used to access content. One user may have a small screen, another a big screen, and yet another somewhere in-between. Also, device capabilities may vary between mobile devices, with many now supporting gestures, voice commands, and a variety of gadgets. With all these devices and capabilities, we raise the question:

  • How does accessibility support in different platforms and devices impact the issue?

Beyond the devices themselves, the software that allows a disabled user to access Web content is as varied as the devices themselves. Operating system, browser, API and so on are usually specific to a mobile device with each resulting in a unique user experience. Vendor's take on accessibility also varies with for example Android [12] and iOS [13] having different accessibility API's, though this is more of a developer issue. Standardization seams the only way to create a shared user experience and take much of the burden of learning new accessibility software and techniques off of the user. This raises the question of:

  • The technical challenges in terms of API, platform, browser, applications, and web content accessibility.

Accessibility Guidelines and Mobile Web

Initial work has been done by the W3C on creating some mappings between WCAG and MWBP but a gap exists for a more complete set of best practices for accessible Mobile Web content. A growing trend in the accessible and mobile communities is for more flexible and device generic content solutions. A mobile Web practitioner might call this responsive design or progressive enhancement [15] with a focus on layout and bandwidth while a accessible practitioner might call this a ubiquitous design [11] or simply a complete design [9] with a focus on content access. Both views aim at a generic client solution within a browser that can be reused across standards supporting devices. This raises several questions about the coverage of mobile accessibility by existing standards such as UAAG, WCAG, MWBP, and MWABP;

  • How does WCAG 2.0 apply to websites and web apps accessed via mobile devices? Are there areas that need more supporting information?
  • How does WCAG 2.0 apply to native apps? Are there areas that need more supporting information?
  • What additional WCAG Techniques would be useful? What additional information in Understanding WCAG would be useful?
  • What guidance could be provided via "application notes"? Should guidance be provided via other ways, e.g., a W3C technical report(s) ("TR doc")?

Mobile Interaction Models

Mobile devices have popularized a number of interaction models such as gestures and voice commands. With these new interaction models come new accessibility challenges and opportunities. Gestures for example open a previously flat and "lifeless" touch screen to a blind user by allowing quick swipe scanning for input and feedback output by auditory summaries and queues via a screen reader. A recent study by WebAIM [14] shows the growing popularity of screen reader use on mobile devices, especially iOS. On iOS the default screen reader that comes with the OS is VoiceOver which is generally known among the accessible community to offer excellent accessibility features. Though with the many devices, the popularity of iOS alone, is fragmenting the mobile landscape where Android for example has a different set of accessible interactions (API). In an effort to begin standardizing accessible gestures provided by these devices, initial work is currently underway by the WAI Independent User Interface Task Force Work Statement WG to look into abstracting the interaction events with Indie UI: Events 1.0 [16].

More traditional forms of interaction such as keyboard input continue to be used in mobile devices and have changed little from the original qwerty keyboard layout. However, as with a small screen, a small keyboard poses many challenges for disabled users, especially users with motor and visual disabilities. A small keyboard may increase input errors by users accidentally hitting the wrong key, holding down a key too long, keying two keys at once, and so on [10]. Additionally a visually impaired user using an onscreen keyboard will rely on scanning methods to determine the key to press which will often take longer than a sighted user doing text input, and apps that are time sensitive may be unusable by disabled users.

Many more challenges exist for accessible mobile interactions models, and many without a clear solution.


To be filled in after the symposium - stay tuned.

Symposium Format

The symposium will have the following format: Each speaker will have 15 minutes. Before the symposium, three questions will be prepared for each presenter. One question will be the same for all presenters -- they will be asked to relate their work to the research questions stated in the symposium call. The other two questions will be specific to their paper. Each presenter will be first asked to answer these questions and then there will time for the symposium participants to ask their questions to the presenters. Time-wise the symposium will be structured as follows:

Welcome (5 minutes - Symposium chairs)

Paper-1 (15 minutes)

Paper-2 (15 minutes)

Paper-3 (15 minutes)

Paper-4 (15 minutes)

Paper-5 (15 minutes)

Discussion (15 to 30 minutes)

Closing (5 minutes - Symposium chairs)

  • Yeliz Yesilada will conduct the symposium;
  • Simon Harper will control the queue etc via Zakim/IRC; and
  • Peter Thiesson will create cross-cutting questions on-the-fly for discussion in the last 15-30 minutes.

Symposium Questions

This section presents the list of questions that we can potentially ask to our presenters. Each presenter will be asked three questions: one general question and two specific questions to their paper. The general question would be as follows: 'How does your work relate to the symposium objectives and research questions?'

Paper 1: Accessible Security for Mobile

by Elizabeth Woodward and Brian Cragun


  1. What particular security concern(s) are raised by the combination of the mobile Web and users with disabilities for social engineering vulnerabilities? What is the connection between accessibility in mobile devices and the security dangers and problems specifically faced by people with disabilities?
  2. The “..key areas that need to be addressed in order to create an accessible mobile security..” list mentioned, are these concerns specific to disabled users?
  3. What steps towards including the needs of disabled users in cross-mobile-platform security standardization best practices would you recommend?
  4. Would you like to see more of a security focus/emphasis in guidelines like WCAG? or Would following WAI (WCAG, ARIA) be sufficient as the guidelines/techniques to be applied?
  5. Do you feel their is a particular security concern for disabled users in respect to GEO location tracking?
  6. What do you mean by "weakest links"? Which are they? [from Cristina Gonzalez Cachon]
  7. Which is the purpose of "remote monitoring" as commented in Open Research Avenue? [from Cristina Gonzalez Cachon]


The main goal of the questions are to bring to surface more specifics and details about accessibility concerns beyond the general ones mentioned in the abstract. The abstract was vague and broad but with a little more concreteness I could see a valuable contribution and understanding of accessible security.

Answering these questions will help us address the second objective of the symposium: "the cover of mobile accessibility by existing standards such as UAAG, WCAG, MWBP, and MWABP".

Paper 2: Enabling Flexible User Interactions With Mobile Media

by Mike Wald, E.A. Draffan and Yunjia Li


  1. Do you have any sense of the scale of benefits we may expect if annotation of the media is easy and able to occur in parallel to its rendering? and for what user group? especially for people with disabilities?
  2. What are the accessibility benefits in HTML5 that lead you to select it as a solution?
  3. What makes you think mobile media annotation is necessary, especially if mobile viewing is mostly of fragments or shorts?
  4. What kinds of annotations (speech, textual, bookmark, etc) are you interested in and how can these be enacted in a constrained - and possibly noisy - mobile setting?
  5. You say 'once the file is downloaded the media player mobile device is activated and no further interaction between the web page or any other application can take place.' How does this apply to streaming media?
  6. SMIL seemed to offer some solutions to this - why discount this, and why has SMIL fallen by the wayside - don't opportunities exist in the utilisation of these technologies in this new and growing domain?
  7. Which limitations exists in the implementation of the W3C Media Fragments Specification? As far as I understand you are proposing a mechanism to annotate media while playing it. [from Cristina Gonzalez Cachon]
  8. Is this use case out of the scope of the Media Fragments WG? Is it in the scope, but not yet implemented? [from Cristina Gonzalez Cachon ]


These questions are intended to bring out the benefits of media annotation in mobile environments, particularly for people with disabilities. These environments are very different with constrained situational impairments of themselves. How do these constraints affect the annotation process in a mobile context?

Answering these questions will help us address the first objective of the symposium: "the technical challenges in terms of API, platform, browser, applications, and web content accessibility;".

Paper 3: Accessibility In Multi-device Web Applications

by Cristina Gonzalez, Javier Rodriguez and Caroline Jay


  1. In your abstract you make an assertion that the user needs on the desktop can be directly transposed to the mobile context. Can you please eloborate on this? Isn't this a strong assertion and how do you know if it is a correct assertion?
  2. How close are we to seeing results, and do you have any preliminary results or examples available?
  3. How does your work in MyMobileWeb relates to people with disabilities and accessibility in general?
  4. Expand on the way you intend to overcome the keyboard description problem.
  5. Do new smart phones already address some of the issues described?
  6. Over how many users will the MyMobileWeb data harvest be?
  7. Could you expand on the benefits you see for all mobile users.


The abstract is a description of ongoing work. These questions are an attempt to tease out just what is happening, what results we might expect, what might be their importance, and how will the key problems - highlighted by the authors themselves - be addressed.

Answering these questions will help us address the first objective of the symposium: "the technical challenges in terms of API, platform, browser, applications, and web content accessibility;".

Paper 4: Assessment Of Keyboard Interface Accessibility In Mobile Browsers

by Jan Richards, Alison Benjamin, Jorge Silva, Greg Gay


  1. In your abstract, you indicate that "mobile software developers will need to be aware of the important accessibility role played by keyboard interfaces and will need to test this functionality as a routine part of QA". In order to achieve this, what do you think can be (needs to be) done?
  2. What can be done to increase the mobile developers' accessibility awareness?
  3. In your abstract you cross reference requirements for keyboard accessibility on mobile devices with UAAG 2.0, how do these requirements relate to WCAG 2.0 from content perspective?
  4. How do you perform the tests? would it be possible to automate them? To what extent? [from Cristina Gonzalez Cachon]


This abstract includes a very brief summary of the work conducted. It is an important study and this paper is very relevant to the overall objectives of this sysmpoisum. These questions aim to get the authors elaborate more on the study conducted and also on the possible future work that can be conducted.

Answering these questions will help us investigate our first and second objectives of the symposium.

Paper 5: Inclusive Mobile Experience: Beyond the Guidelines and Standards

by Katja Forbes. Perceptive UX,


  1. Do you think there is a tension between the increasing accessibility requirements resulting from the increasing complexity of mobile applications and development, and the need for less complex guidelines? and if there is a tension, what suggestions do you have to address such tension?
  2. What strategy would you recommend to help keep guidelines like WCAG up to date with mobile technology?
  3. Was the mentioned WCAG to MWPB mapping approach beneficial to help you get up to speed on related best practices and or for research and development?
  4. A study is mentioned to help aid in the creation of new guidelines, could you describe your methodology in more detail?
  5. What strategy would you recommend for testing guidelines’ effectiveness with disabled users?
  6. What is your WCAG X.0 wish list?


The main goal is to understand how the author feels guideline development could be improved. She raises valid points about WCAG and MWBP being dated and slow to adapt to change but no steps to improve them or a clear solution(s). Perhaps the author just needed more paper length to elaborate on her ideas for improving guidelines, and these questions should help give her the space to do so.

General Questions

  1. Samantha Bird - Are there any recommended tools to use with mobile accessibility testing ?
  2. James Carter - What issues does responsive design generate for accessibility?
  3. Shiv D - Importance of Mobile Accessibility and Effort to apply
  4. Marina Buzzi - I'm very interested in accessibility of dynamic apps on mobile devices for blind users


  1. Web Content Accessibility and Mobile Web: Making a Web Site Accessible Both for People with Disabilities and for Mobile Devices.
  2. Shared Web Experiences: Barriers Common to Mobile Device Users and People with Disabilities.
  3. Relationship between Mobile Web Best Practices (MWBP) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
  4. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
  5. Mobile Web Best Practices.
  6. Mobile Web Application Best Practices.
  7. WAI-ARIA Overview.
  8. Web Ergonomics Laboratory – The University of Manchester. RIAM project: Reciprocal Interoperability of Accessible and Mobile Webs.
  9. Harper, S. Mobile Web: Reinventing the Wheel? ACM SIGACCESS Accessibility and Computing 90, 16-18, ACM Press, 2008.
  10. S. Trewin, H. Pain (1999). Keyboard and mouse errors due to motor disabilities. International Journal of Human Computer Studies 50:109-144.DOI:10.1006/ijhc.1998.0238
  11. W3C Ubiqutos Domain.
  12. Designing for Accessibility - Android Developers
  13. Accessibility Programming Guide for iOS: Accessibility on iPhone
  14. WebAIM. Screen Reader User Survey #4 Results.
  15. Marcotte, Ethan. Responsive Web Design. A Book Apart.
  16. WAI Independent User Interface Task Force Work Statement

Back to the list of topics.