12 Designing Mobile Applications For All: Accessible Contact Manager
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Mobile phones are becoming increasingly popular and are already the first access technology to information and communication. As these devices are improving with faster processors, better operating ...
Mobile phones are becoming increasingly popular and are already the first access technology to information and communication. As these devices are improving with faster processors, better operating systems and other features, they are integrating more technologies and applications, such as e-mail, media player, camera, instant messenger, access to Internet, social networks, etc. However, accessibility has not been part of most of the application and system designs on these platforms. Users are reporting barriers and problems in their access and usage of the mobile devices. This situation is even more critical for the most common mobile phone applications, such as a phone dialler and contact manager or a messengering application, because they allow accessing the core and most fundamental functionality of the mobile devices. To integrate accessibility in mobile devices, it should start focusing on the main and most used applications. In this paper we present a phone dialler and contact manager application that is designed to be used by all users with disabilities. A special emphasis has been placed on users with cognitive impairments and with learning disabilities because they are usually not considered in the application designs. There are several accessibility design principles that are usually taken into account when designing accessible applications; good colour contrast, adjustable font size, search fields, limit the depth of the menus, etc. However there are two basic features that do not receive the same attention and that are basic for users with disabilities, and especially for cognitive impairment users and the elderly: personalization and multimodality. Personalization allows accommodating the application to the differences between individuals. In the case of a phone dialler and contact manager, it does not make sense to offer a user that due to his/her impairment uses the mobile device only to make calls, options of sending SMS/MMS/e-mails messages or even visiting the web site of the selected contact. Very often there are several options that users never utilise but create a lot of confusion to them. If the options that are displayed to the users are configurable, the application can be fully adapted to the user needs and be simplified to match their preferences. It can even give a user with severe cognitive impairment the only option of making a call when a contact is selected. Another basic aspect for developing accessible applications is to provide equivalent alternatives. Contact managers of conventional mobile phones usually provide the possibility of adding images to each contact as an alternative of the textual information of the contact’s name. For cognitive impairment users it would be very useful to include a second alternative via voice information. This way, when a contact is selected the application will reproduce a specific sound that could be the recorded voice of the selected contact (e.g. saying “Hi, do you want to call me”). With this approach users with cognitive impairment perceive the information of the contacts through three different and complementary ways: text, photos and voices, facilitating the users to recognize each contact with minor efforts.
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