When is a Duck also a Fish?

One of the key issues that I think is going to come up in the context of the Mobile Web Best Practices working group that I’m going to chair is that of Accessibility. To put it simply, what is the intersection of Web “accessibility” and Web “mobility?” To be sure, a lot of what makes a Web content accessible can also aid it in being Mobile browser friendly. Some times I hear people say that a user of a browser on mobile is “disabled” in a way because of the limitations of the mobile device. I disagree with this notion. I think — and forgive me for this — that users of mobile browsers are actually “differently-abled” in the truest sense. There are both advantages and disadvantages to mobile browsing. For example, you have the disadvantage of the smaller screen but the (at least potential) advantage of mobility and location awareness. But there is definitely an intersection. The Mobile Web Best Practices group will have to develop a set of guidelines and a checklist, akin to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines checklist, and in reviewing the WCAG checklist, it seems like much of it could be imported or referenced (subject, of course, to the consensus of the working group). The trick will be determining the intersection of mobility and accessibility. Surely, some of the WCAG guidelines will directly map on to Mobility requirements whereas some won’t. For example, careful use of color, or providing alternate visual cues when color is used as an interface element is important because of the huge number of red-green or otherwise color-blind people out there (a common rant subject for my friend Eric Snider — and by the way I’m glad to see there’s someone than I am about updating their blog). But is this strictly speaking a mobility requirement as well? I’m tempted to say “no,” whereas use of CSS as opposed to tables to support content layout is certainly applicable to Mobility as well as Accessibility. Tricky stuff.

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