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AccessU features design experts, focus on mobile apps

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AccessU, a unique conference focused on universal design and drawing expert trainers from around the world, recently celebrated its tenth year, with a special focus on mobile applications.
The conference is produced by Knowbility, Inc., an Austin-headquartered non-profit and recognized national leader for providing equal access to technology for people with disabilities.
“Everything I know about accessibility and universal design, I owe to Knowbility,” said Marla Erwin,
interactive art director of Whole Foods Market, who is a designer and accessibility consultant and participant from previous AccessU events. “Their AccessU conferences set the standard for accessibility training.”
The AccessU event, held at Austin-based St. Edwards University, brought together the top experts in accessible
design, development, and information technology for a three-day series of presentations and
workshops from May 17-19.
Attendees included web developers building accessible software, IT professionals administering it, and end users – both with and without special needs – looking to learn more. And, to no one’s surprise, mobile accessibility was a major theme.
Paul Adam, accessibility specialist for the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), gave an in-depth workshop on accessibility in the iPhone and iPad, breaking down the the best tips for tapping into native iOS capabilities. Powerful features are at developers’ fingertips such as VoiceOver, a talking assistant that walks you through the software, the Rotor for navigating websites without seeing the screen, and Zoom to make text bigger, among other capabilities.
Web accessibility expert and consultant Derek Featherstone of Further Ahead Inc. presented a
different workshop, surveying app development for the major mobile operating systems: Android,
iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, and Nokia’s Symbian. His primary conclusion: iOS has the most
accessibility baked right in, but Android has a large variety of add on applications that make it a
strong second place contender. In each case, he noted that accessibility is not easy to achieve from a
development standpoint, especially in designing and testing.
With mobile devices proliferating, AccessU organizers expect to see increasing demand for their training
in designing and testing mobile apps for people with special hearing, sight, tactile and other needs. As
the population grows older over the next decade, especially in developed countries that can afford the
relatively more expensive smart, mobile devices, app designers will need to grapple with apps that must
be designed in radically new ways.

AccessU at St. Edward's University
AccessU at St. Edward's University

Steve Guengerich is a co-founder of Appconomy ( and executive producer
of its research and education group. Additional reporting on the story is by Tim Gasper.
Would you like all your dreams to come true? Follow Marc Speir on twitter @truthorcon.


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