Apple’s iPad: A revolution in accessibility for disabled users?
Whether or not the iPad will succeed in challenging the notebook market on a mass scale remains to be seen, perhaps Apple’s deployment of the product and its route to market will prove a determining factor, just as much as any need or want for the product on the consumers behalf.
What does interest me is that the iPad does one thing particularly well; it succeeds in developing accessibility and usability beyond that of many other such devices we’ve seen. As observed by many parents, the fact that a child can pick up the iPad or similar touch screen devices and interact with the graphical user interface instinctively or based on intuition is a very valuable asset, this should be central to the debate surrounding the worth of the iPad to the consumer market.
The beauty of touch screen devices is that they rely on and promote our most basic human instincts. Take children as an example, as they develop they rely on the tangible and on experimentation with objects to determine what they are and how they can be used, if at all. Perhaps consider disabled users also, the ability to simply lightly touch the screen to interact with the device, as opposed to requiring the dextrous use of the mouse or keyboard could revolutionise some people’s ability to access information, products or services online. And after all, many would argue that access to the internet and information on a broader scale should be considered a basic human right.
“The iPad is bigger. I know this is obvious, but the implications are that people motor control problems such as cerebral palsy may be able to use this device more easily than the smaller ones, as less very fine motor control is needed for many tasks.” – Assistive Technology for Apple and Mac Users
The whole online accessibility and usability debate often centralises on the W3C’s accessibility and usability guidelines. These guidelines are intended to aid both web designers and web developers in deploying and developing websites that allow easy use for all users, not just the disabled. Perhaps we are overlooking the worth of developing more accessible devices for interacting with the web such as the iPad, in favour of concentrating on website design alone. This oversight is probably in part due to the fact that the accessibility debate develops and exists predominately online.
With many new laws and guidelines been introduced to promote accessibility of both online media and physical products themselves, accessibility could be set to become a far more determinate factor in both product development and online media. Hopefully this debate will be one that disabled users will ultimately benefit from.