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Accessibility and the iPad

April 8, 2010
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Ok, so new gadgets aren’t exactly the topic of our class, but most definitely the issues of accessibility in digital interfaces does.  (Though, to be fair, for my Web Usability course, there is extra credit offered if you diagnose an interface error within the iPad during an un-packing video made by our professor. Who would have ever thought I’d have someone offer me extra credit in my grad program, let alone have the extra credit involve watching someone unwrap a shiny new toy.)

With the with the storm of reporting and media advertising coinciding with Apple’s release of the iPad, I’m curious at the lack of further focus on accessibility and the iPad. OK, so yeah, everyone’s excited that Apple’s come out with something new, like Mose on the mount with a tablet that simply says “Though shalt compute in simplicity and style [for forty percent markup]”. I personally believe the media frenzy over this new toy is simply because of free, expensive swag given to those who give back press coverage, but maybe it will have as large an effect as prophesized by some. If so, I’m curious how this movement towards tablet based computing will affect our accessibility standards.  Apple has at least some documentation on their site about what features are included to help those who need a little extra assistance: a built-in screen reader, mega zoom features, closed captioning and a high-contrast white-on-black mode.

Past Apple’s coverage of the accessibility of its platform, there’s not a whole lot out there.  Only a handful of articles exist talking about the rubber-to-the-road realities of how these features and this product will work for real users with accessibility issues.  In fact, so over populated are the articles complaining about Apple’s release policies that I even stumbled over a few in my google search to try and find more about accessibility and the iPad. It turns out the reports are, no surprise, more excited about their access to the iPad than the accessibility of the iPad.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Stephanie Angles permalink
    April 8, 2010 9:59 pm

    Interesting stuff, I’m not the usually into all the new gadgets but I keep seeing the commercials on t.v. and you make some good points.

  2. Sarah K. permalink
    April 9, 2010 12:32 am

    So just as a disclaimer, I am a fan of Apple. They can be really good about anticipating what behaviors and tasks their target customers will really be doing. And they can really, really miss the point. It’s a matter of knowing and accepting they are targeting a particular group of customers. Plus, I had a PC for many, many years. The experience and general ease of use just isn’t the same. And when your PC eats 4 years worth of papers from your undergraduate years besides other important files and programs in one night supposedly because it’s poor file management system corrupted everything (maybe that’s now better with Windows 7?), it’s pretty horrifying.

    I can tell you right now, I’m not that excited about the iPad. It’s interesting for some, but it’s not that functional yet. Who in their right mind is going to want to type a paper with touch keys? Yes, you can get a keyboard and connect them, but it’s still something you have to fall back to for something like typing that you’ll probably do often whether or not you’re in college. Email, writing captions for photos, writing on your Facebook page, blogging, etc. I’d love to see much improved dictation programs that eliminate typing and correctly spell. A difficult challenge given language barriers and accents to say the least, but a worthwhile technology development quest.

  3. judyo123 permalink
    April 9, 2010 2:00 am

    I am imagining right now everyone is trying to understand how this technology is going to change the marketplace. I found this demo video of how Wired magazine plans to use the tablet http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/02/the-wired-ipad-app-a-video-demonstration/. This is pretty much a commercial – but it does show the ease at which someone can “flip” pages of their magazine. I imagine that it would be easy to zoom in on small print too.

  4. Deborah permalink
    April 9, 2010 5:34 am

    I am certainly not a techy but it seems people just want an ipad because they believe it will somehow make their life easier. In looking at the Wired article there are many things the ipad is not capable of doing but folks want to possess the newest devices, and they want them now!
    Digital representations of paper magazines, such as wired which has an audience for this format, is truly amazing.

  5. oanhtran03 permalink
    April 9, 2010 1:05 pm

    Though I am not a fan of Mac computers or any anticipated release of new gadgets, I have to admit I felt excited hearing news about the introduction of the iPad by Steve Jobs. I would say the media has played a large role in promoting such excitement in me. I personally don’t see why I should prefer an iPad over my thin Dell laptop but I like the fact that this new gadget is talked about so much 🙂

    Oanh

  6. lymphexmaquina permalink
    April 9, 2010 1:49 pm

    Yep. Apple products (aside from computers for home use) seem more like status symbols or fashionable accessories. I’m not a make “make it pretty” guy but I do like the aesthetics I have to admit.

    Still the one time I pre-ordered an Apple product–first release of the iPod mini–I was pretty much dissatisfied with its functionality, well that and it was buggy. So basically I overpaid because I wanted to have something that came in a cool color. Great. Never doing that again. Isolated incident? Maybe. But I can’t explain my friends willingness to pay for three Powerbooks (all hardware failures) in the 5 years that I had the same PC.

    Sure, I guess once you go Mac, you never go back. But really? C’mon.

    I’ll say one thing though. Apple excels at marketing their products to be the standard whether they are worthy of that designation or not.

  7. litbrarian permalink
    April 9, 2010 3:29 pm

    The interesting thing about accessibility and Apple is how closed the Apple World is. Take any App as an example: it has to be submitted, approved, cordoned off from the rest of the internet (because the iProducts can’t multi-task), and usually require a hefty fee. This is a problem on the user-end, but even on the developer end they run the risk of having the app pulled from the marketplace (or even denied in the first place) for reasons as simple as an aesthetic disagreement on the composition of the icon. Not to mention Apple’s crusade against Flash which closes off a lot of the internet (more than I thought it would, to be frank). I believe that HTML5 is a better way, but cutting off access to Flash just wipes out half of the internet. (The lack of flash is most notable on the iPhone and iPad. Safari on Macs does flash just fine, last I knew)

  8. Julia Specter permalink
    April 9, 2010 5:42 pm

    I love my mac book pro, it is a monster of a machine and I often feel guilty that I don’t use to its fullest potential. That being said, when Apple introduced the ipad, I was kinda weary of the product. I was even surprised that people were lining up to buy it on its release date.
    While its nice to see where these kind of technologies can take us, I think if you have an iphone and macbook, what else do we really need? I already feel overwhelmed by all the information and media available out there, and now there is another gadget to buy? However, I’m sure I will discover at some point that there on how the ipad can benefit its users, but I’m not getting it yet. Sure its light and portable and has cool features, but so does my macbook and iphone. I can’t wait to be proven wrong.

  9. lib240chang permalink
    April 9, 2010 11:59 pm

    Here’s an article, “Apple’s iPad: The End of the Internet as We Know it?” that you might be interested in: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125561844

    It’s not that thorough but it does introduce some accessibility problems that the iPad posses.

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