The Apple iPad and accessibility 'out of the box'
Everyone's been talking about the Apple iPad, launched in California last week. And this gives us a great opportunity to talk about accessible computers and device interfaces generally.
Disabled people are beginning to expect accessibility out of the box and, indeed, laws are firming up these previously unheard of ideas.
In the US, for instance, a new Technology Bill of Rights for the Blind, was introduced into Washington on the same day the iPad was launched. It requires that all consumer electronics, home appliances, kiosks, and electronic office technology, have accessible interfaces.
Existing law Section 508 of the US workforce rehabilitation act requires that all federal government offices 'buy accessible'.
As the US is home of Silicon Valley and many rather important computer companies who'd rather like to have contracts with the government and to remain within the law - hello Microsoft, Apple, Google, etc - we should be expecting more products to be accessible on day one of launch. Surely?
So. Back to this iPad thing. disabled commentators were out there on their blogs and on Twitter over the last few days, discussing whether Apple's new device is accessible ... or accessible enough.
Blog entry: Accessibility and the iPad: first impressions - a basic look at what a mass market touch screen tablet computer could bring in terms of accessibility to people with interesting dexterity issues, low or no vision and cognitive difficulties. Plus the listed accessibility features published so far.
Podcast: The Mac-cessibility Round Table Podcast - iPad, Therefore, I Want - a bunch of blind people talking together about what they know so far and what they'd want from the product.
Article: Apple's forbidden fruit - Geoff Adams-Spink reviews the accessibility of the iPhone which is already out on the market, a known quantity and, looking like a small iPad, presumably behaves similarly. Only he wasn't too impressed with it.
The new iPad product will spawn a brand new service: an online book store: an iTunes for electronic books (iBooks). It remains to be seen how accessible these books will be to visually impaired people who have been crying out for mainstream access to reading material and education for hundreds of years. Surely they'll get it right this time? Or face wrath galore. I guess we'll find out when the product goes to market in March.
We're interested in your comments on accessibility of mainstream electronic products, computing and services. Tell us about your experiences and what you'd drool over in terms of an ultimate accessible gizmo in the comments below. Then we'll get it made for you (disclaimer: no we won't ... but I wish we could).