Monday, April 18, 2016

Google - Accessibility isn't only about vision and touch, cognitive disabilities are neglected.

Google got some good press recently for a $20 million dollar accessibility project developer grant. It’s a good initiative, but Google’s Accessibility site doesn’t consider cognitive issues.

That’s a shame, because there’s a lot Google could do. They could, for example, read my book (not published yet, but I’ll provide preprints). Of course Google isn’t alone, neither Apple nor Microsoft nor Facebook have built in support for teens and adults with cognitive disabilities. Depending on how one defines cognitive disability this is a much larger population than adults with visual and mother disorders.

There’s a lot Google could do, and there are good commercial reasons to address this need. Just as wheelchair sidewalk curb cuts have been a boon to strollers and elder walkers, cognitive adaptations also apply to many elderly and most children.

What kind of adaptations?

The obvious adaptations are scalable interfaces, such as simplified versions of Google Mail or Google Calendar. There are other angles to consider though. In Smartphones for All - Using iPhone and Android to build independence for atypical minds I write about the role of Explorer and Guide. Google, Facebook and Apple could explicitly support the role of the Guide, including delegation of identity. The Big Three could provide a formal way to apply restrictions designed for under 18 to over 18 adults with guardians or delegated Guides.

Some of these adaptations take more work than others, but in many cases we’re more than half-way there. Web services that work with both smartphone apps and a Chrome browser with Profile support enable the Guide role today, they can be extended and formalized.

The first step is for Google, Apple and Facebook to put cognitive disabilities on their roadmap. I like to think they just haven’t known how to start. All they need to do is read this blog post…

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