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Accessibility Reviews

So much is done and more would come in the era of mobile accessibility

August 21, 2012 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

I still remember Nokia 6600 (hmm. Nokia forgot this phone, can’t find on their site except the developer specs and found the info on Wikipedia!) that first ever mobile phone where user could install a screen reader either Talks from Nuance or Mobile Speak from Code Factory. Although the phone Nokia 6600 is big in size but was only the phone that users who are blind or partially sighted can use independently and it was in use for a long time indeed.

Today, I see there are a lot of mobile devices running on different platforms and all of them do come with accessibility features; some may have a lot of features and some may have limitations but overall, today there are a lot to make a choice. Interestingly, lots of applications are being built with support to assistive technologies.

As mentioned earlier, a few years back, Nokia 6600 was the only phone that can be used with a screen reader but today, there is a huge list of supported handsets (source: Nuance) available in the market; these does include not just phones that can be used only with keypad but also phones that are touch based.

The choice doesn’t end here… today, users can choose different platforms such as Android, iOS, Windows, BlackBerry etc… Let’s see what are the features that would help people with disabilities on each platform:

  • Symbian phones:
    • Can access the phone with screen reader Talks by Nuance, Mobile Speak by Code Factory
    • Zoom application by Nuance enable user to use the phone with magnification
    • DAISY2GO – an application to read Digital Talking books
    • Loadstone GPS – an Accessible GPS application
  • Android
  • Blackberry – BlackBerry has recently introduced it’s own BlackBerry Screen Reader that works on BB 9220, 9320, 9350, 9360 and 9370. It works fairly well in exploring the menus, email, browsing, call management and Twitter. I haven’t tried with many other applications. As of writing this post, I see the screen reader getting stuck, if user play around the different applications for about 20 minutes and this issue has been reported to the Accessibility Team at Research In Motion (RIM)
  • iPhone – Though it’s an expensive but the best that a person with disability can use. iPhone or for that matter any device that run on iOS including Mac, iPad, iPod etc.,) has the accessibility features included. Some of the accessibility features on iOS are:
    • VoiceOver – helps users with vision impairment
    • Zoom & Large text – for low vision
    • Siri – something similar to voice recognition
    • Assitive Touch – for users with motor disabilities

    See all about iOS accessibility

Now, what’s next? As there are more platforms and devices available, there are more applications made available; there are applications for almost every device to do everything like shopping, news read, transport, buy movie tickets, games, find a route, know about stock and what not?? but unfortunately, not many of them are accessible. One needs to understand and implement mobile accessibility techniques. There are no specific guidelines yet; but these resources for Mobile Accessibility Guidelines by Henny Swan would be really helpful. If you are building an iOS application, would be great to read this tiny article on How to build accessible iOS apps and Overview of Accessibility -iOS technologies on Apple Developer site

Like above, there are resources and technique to make applications accessible on any platform that developer wishes to build! Let’s join and build an inclusive mobile experience!

Review of the Website of Income Tax Department, Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, Government of India

April 27, 2012 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

I have noticed that Income Tax India‘s Website underwent a re-design and decided to check if the website has met with Guidelines for Indian Government Websites (GIGW) requirements. Unfortunately, it has not meet several check points of the compliance matrix of GIGW. since every citizen including those with disabilities and tax payers uses this website and Income Tax Department is one such department that generates revenue through citizens, it must be accessible to all users. Below are findings from my review.

Page titles are not descriptive; All pages displays same title as “National Website of the Income Tax Department of India”; instead, it should show the title that reflects to the page content, for instance, Home page should have “Home – Income Tax Department, Government of India” and About Us should have “About Us – Income Tax Department – Government of India”

There is no link to the National Portal of India. GIGW requires all government portals to prominently display the link to the National Portal of India (http://india.gov.in).

No policies such as privacy policy, copy right policy present on the page. External websites are not indicated to differentiate between government and non-government websites; for instance, at the bottom of the page, there is a link to the site developers Quintegra Solutions and same should have an image associated with that indicates Quintegra is an external website. Also, there are several links that opens in a new window and same is not informed to the user; for instance the e-File link given in a multimedia slider.

Clicking on several links on the right rail, does not lead to any new page and focus remains on the home page itself. It cannot be considered as the website is still undergoing changes, since the site nowhere displays the same or it is in beta version.

The website does have a link to “terms of use” but by activating the same, a small window gets opened with disclaimer information.

Although the form names are given in a separate column, links to download a form is given just with the Form no and it would not be descriptive for assistive technology users such as those using the screen reader. Screen readers have a functionality to view all the links in a dialog box and in such a scenario, they only get to know the form numbers and not the description of the form unless they move the focus into the table.

All the circulars and notifications are listed with their file numbers but no title of the circular or notification is mentioned. Also, many of them do not have validate date mentioned.

There is no mechanism in place to archive the old tenders.

Though, there is an image link to “Contact Us”, the image do not have text alternate and contact page do not have contact information of important personnel and functions.

There is no feedback form nor there is any help section in the website. There are several documents including complete tender information is given in PDF format; but the file format, size and source to download necessary reader is not available. Content is not packaged in a way that is easy to navigate; several pages opens in a new window and there is no mechanism to revert back to the home page; for instance, all links under Tax laws and rules menu opens in a new window.

Information about page last updated is not made available. There is no archival policy on the website; though an archival section is present. No acronyms or expansion to words like PAN, TAN etc, are provided on the website. There are several links given under the sub menus in the navigation; however, the sub menus are not accessible via keyboard, hence those links won’t be accessible to all users from the home page.
Most of the layout is controlled with table mark up and information gets cluttered when styles are disabled. Government ownership information “Income Tax department, Department of revenue, Ministry of Finance, government of India” is given in the form of image with no text alternative. The same information would not be available to screen reader users, those who rely on text browsers or who intentionally turn off the images. Also, the same information would not be available for search engines.
Alt attributes are not provided for images; thre are multimedia slide shows on the web site but no mechanism is provided to control them by user; means there is no “pause, stop” buttons. Though there are no links that lead to a page “under construction”, there are several links frokm home page that leads no where and focus remains on the home page itself. There is no “Skip to main content” or “Skip navigation” link is provided there is no mechanism for user to bypass the repeated blocks of content like navigation.

Website does have a Search box but not functioning. By giving an input in the search edit field and clicking on Search button does nothing and focus remains on the same page. CSS is not used across the website and most of the page layout is styled using table mark-up. Website is not quite usable when scripts are turned off. Associated labels are not provided for input fields. There are several links with screen text ‘Read more” and that is not descriptive.

These are some of the high level findings and not the thorough report. A thorough report can be generated on request and on a mutual benefit.