The Mobile Disability

As an early mobile web adopter, I’ve been a disabled web citizen for over 16 years now.

I’m of course referring the the way mobile browsers view the internet

And ever since I uploaded those clumsy first WML files to the BBC servers back in 2001, launching BBC Mobile, I’ve been thinking about diversity.

There weren’t many phones back then; few enough to know them by name, and each of them were people to me with their own problems and limitations.

I knew this population would grow and evolve, surviving through generational mutations brought on by sales reports and marketing research.

Many passed and some survived… And as I watched the mobile handset boom I couldn’t help continue my early adopted analogy. Phones are browsers with their own particular capabilities. And in that mindset you can choose to perceive human accessibility, with it’s rules and restrictions, as another set of browsers or input mechanisms to test against.

Mobile internet devices have come a long way, but they’re still not perfect. Their limitations are just harder to spot. While the modern mobile developer piles responsive views of desktop sites into their pocket-able browsers, they fool themselves as this slim looking ‘chick’ struggles to be mobile under the weight of her heavy bones.

I was recently recruiting some new designers. One of my questions was “What considerations would you make when designing a cross-platform service?” Everyone mentioned image/asset size and screen real-estate, some mentioned screen orientation of the TV, but no one mentioned input methods (touch vs TV remote or mouse & keyboard)… No one!

But I don’t think it takes a forensic detective or someone gifted with extra perception to simply consider how and where and by whom a piece of content might be accessed. Perhaps its simply endemic of a growing generation who’s worlds exist in an LCD box that they can’t think outside of.

It’s a shame how many web developers perceive versions of Internet Explorer to be more important than the people who browse the content.

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