An accessibility wish list: Getting ready for a smarter future.

13/04/2017


Before smart devices became accessible, any one with a disability would need to purchase a device capable of running third-party assistive technology, or would need to purchase a specific device which met their requirements by performing a function, such as a hearing-aid compatible phone. Now that many devices include access features built in, and wearable technology becomes a part of our daily routine, smart homes are being built to make use of such technology.


While smart home technology started with an alarm to alert a carer or the authorities if a person needed assistance, other applications and devices have been developed to make it easier to control various items in a smart home. From lighting to doorbells, and security to heating, there is often an app which can be used via a smart phone or tablet to control the various items in the home. While some apps may be accessible, all apps need to be coded to ensure that all users can control their home from their required device. I admit at this point that I have not at the time of writing used anything like a Wi-Fi enabled heating, lighting or security system, however my list of ideas to develop a fully accessible option will hopefully be realised in the near future.


As a blind user of iOS, I am familiar with the specific gestures which can be used to control an iPhone using Voiceover, the built in screen reader for apple products. Similar gestures can also be used to access android devices. If a smart home is going to be truly accessible, apps across multiple platforms will need to have clearly labelled items, and respond to the various touch gestures which are allowed through the use of assistive technology. Of course various apps should include as many access implementations for as many users as possible, including different font and contrast options for users who have some useful vision, assistive touch and switch access for users who Have limited mobility or a learning difficulty, and many other access requirements which are not covered in this post, but equally as important. To make things easy to access and use though, keeping touch screen gestures the same across devices, and adaptive keypad functions available for persons who are unable to use a touch screen would enable all users to be able to take advantage of a smart home.


To ensure the best experience possible, the following links will help you: Developing Android apps for accessibility (external link). Developing accessible iOS apps (external link).