Asia-Pacific Feb 5, 2014
WELLINGTON, NZ: A new tech start-up, staffed entirely by people with vision disabilities, hopes to help increase revenue for app developers while making the world of mobile devices a more accessible place.
For the average iPhone or Android user it might be difficult to imagine how a person without sight or with limited sight can navigate the flat surface of a touch screen. The fact is, they do, in large numbers. Blind people use VoiceOver – the screen reading software built into Apple’s iOS, and Talkback – the screen reader built into Android, to perform the same tasks as their sighted counterparts.
Today, people who are blind or low vision are able to stay connected with family, friends and business associates, enjoy unprecedented productivity on the job, play games, and even take photos.
Appcessible is a start-up headquartered in New Zealand. Founded by Jonathan Mosen, a blind iPhone user with over two decades of professional experience in the technology arena, Appcessible aims to help developers gain access to the rapidly growing market of users of mobile assistive technologies.
“There are apps that cater specifically to the needs of people with vision disabilities, such as money readers and apps that describe a picture you’ve taken. But the vast majority of apps we use are designed for a general audience,” says Jonathan Mosen.
“There is nothing more frustrating than downloading an app to find it isn’t accessible with the screen reading programs. I founded the company because we got feedback from developers saying they want to do the right thing, by making their apps accessible, but don’t know where to start. It really isn’t that difficult, and the app doesn’t have to lose any of its visual appeal in the process – just conform to a few simple guidelines so the screen reader knows how to speak the information to a person with vision disability, or display it using a Bluetooth-enabled Braille display.”
Mosen says there are websites where users can post reviews and discuss the accessibility of apps, but Appcessible is the first platform where app developers can receive feedback and suggestions for making their product accessible. Accessible.net offers services ranging from writing a report on a developers completed app, to consulting with app developers during the design phase so built in universal design principles are achieved at the project’s foundation.
What makes Appcessible unique is the lack of any automated testing procedures. Highly skilled blind iOS and Android users test the apps at each phase of the process. Once the process is completed, Appcessible will help developers connect with customers with vision disabilities through the company’s blog and podcasts, and submit comprehensive reviews of the app’s accessibility to relevant app directories. “It’s a win win situation for all,” says Mosen. ”If you make money from your apps, it just doesn’t make economic sense to shut out an eager group looking to purchase apps. Even if you don’t make money from your apps, then it’s just the right thing to do.”