2012 shows accessibility progress, but still a long ways to go

Accessibility for people with disabilities is starting to get some much-needed attention, and popular tablets, smartphones, and e-readers are slowly jumping on the accessibility bandwagon.

Apple is still the leader on accessibility features with VoiceOver, Zoom, and Guided Access.  The Nook for iOS app is taking advantage of these features by supporting VoiceOver and Zoom.

Amazon is finally responding to the complaints from the disability community and from the National Federation for the Blind and American Council for the Blind by adding new accessibility features to the Kindle Fire.  The regular Kindle still does not have any accessibility built in.

As far as web accessibility goes, there have been strives towards making WordPress accessible with the WP Accessibility plugin and support built in to WordPress 3.5.  HTML5 is picking up speed in the area of accessibility.

Assistive technology used to be a completely separate entity.  People who are blind or partially sighted had to buy expensive magnifiers and screen reader software.  Now both of these are available as an app on the iPhone and iPad, as well as Android tablets and smartphones.  There are a number of free or very inexpensive magnification apps.  There is also a good CCTV app called See It.

VoiceOver is a worthy competitor to JAWS.  I like the voice better on VoiceOver than JAWS, and it is fairly easy to learn.  It took me awhile to get used to the hang gestures, but I was able to complete the tasks I needed to, as long as the apps supported VoiceOver.

Now that the line between “regular” technology and “assistive” technology has blurred almost completely, it would make sense to include accessibility as a part of the product development cycle.  It might add a little more time and expense in the short run, but in the long run, the product will be open to more consumers.  That could outweigh the initial expense.

Now that it is possible to build accessibility into modern technology, it is all that more important to make sure disabled consumers do not get left behind.  2012 has seen progress, and I hope that we keep heading in the right direction towards universal accessibility.

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