The right swipe: 3 things you need to know about upcoming changes to mobile web accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.1)

In June 2018 the final draft of World Wide Web Consortium's WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) will be released. AbilityNet accessibility and usability consultant Alladin Elteira offers some important information about the guidelines ahead of their launch in our latest webinar. 



Alladin writes:

WCAG 2.1 will use the same conformance model as WCAG 2.0 with some additions intended to address accessibility gaps. One of the three main points it is intended to address is the accessibility needs related to mobile, since back in 2008 when WCAG 2.0 came out mobiles were not as advanced as today. Our three points below are all basic recommendations - Level A. The government's accessibility standard, which organisations should ideally look to meet under the Equality Act 2010, is the higher Level AA.

The three main success criteria recommended for mobile accessibility under WCAG 2.1

Pointer Gestures (Level A): Avoid two-finger pinch zoom, swiping and dragging.

The use of complicated and complex gestures is discouraged, this also includes path-based gestures. This is because not all users are capable of performing them, nor have the dexterity accuracy needed - Tinder, we're looking at you! An example of such gestures would be two-finger pinch zoom, and path-based gestures like swiping and dragging.

A woman using Tinder with option to swipe right or left

As an author your responsibility lies in providing an alternative to these complex gestures, to ensure that users are able to perform the action with single-point activation. Examples of single-point activation methods would be tapping, double tapping, or long press.

It’s worth noting that this success criterion will often not only benefit users with dexterity limitations, but all users and users with cognitive impairments in particular, as they might not be aware of these complex gestures.

Motion Actuation (Level A): Limit shaking and tilting requirements

This success criteria ensures that users are not forced to rely on motion alone to activate or trigger a functionality. Its intent is to help users with motor impairments who for instance might have limited movements and be unable to shake or tilt the device to activate the camera or activate sensors to pick up their movement, as is sometimes required. We can also look at examples of some people with autism who might move their hands a lot/ quite fast. This could activate a flashlight on the phone example, without intention. 

Alternative user interfaces should be provided, unless the motion is absolutely necessary for the functionality, for example counting steps on an activity tracker.

An example of such solutions would be providing ‘Next’ and ‘previous’ buttons to navigate between pages, instead of only counting on tilting the device, as some smartphones currently do.

Orientation (Level A)

Both portrait and landscape orientations should be supported. Locking the orientation to only one of them means a failure against this success criteria as some people might find it easier to view or hold the screen in one particular way, or for example, might have their device attached to the arm of a wheelchair and not be able to easily re-angle their screen. 

In addition, if a screen reader user is unaware that the orientation has changed, the user might perform incorrect navigation commands. Therefore, mobile application developers should try to support both orientations.

WCAG 2.1 also addresses accessibility issues related to low vision and cognitive impairments, with additional success criteria, all as usual falling under three levels of conformance A, AA, and AAA.

For more details on the remaining WCAG 2.1 Candidate Recommendation, see here.

London Accessibility Meetup 23 April

AbilityNet is proud to be supporting tonight's London Accessibility Meetup hosted by Sainsbury's. The theme of this month's event is best practice for the design, building and testing of accessible digital interfaces and services with 2 case studies from UK Government.

A case study from the Home Office showing how they approached accessibility on the Passport Renewal Service and how accessibility support is being embedded in teams.
- James Buller, Access Needs Lead
- Charlotte Moore, Lead User Researcher

A case study from Government Digital Services showing how they designed, built and tested the accessibility of 5 components for new GOV.UK Design System and will share the vision of the Design System.
- Ed Horsford, Lead Interaction Designer
- Alex Jurubita, Developer
- Alice Noakes, Product manager

Find out more about the London Accessibility Meetups and join us in May for the next Meetup.

Government must raise awareness of mainstream accessibility technology for disabled people says AbilityNet

Following today’s publication of a Work and Pensions Committee report on assistive technology (AT), leading digital incluRobin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion, AbilityNetsion charity AbilityNet is calling on the Government to raise awareness among employers and disabled people of the availability of mainstream accessibility technology.

The charity supports the recommendations in the report, calling on the Government to further the promotion of mainstream, cost-effective AT and AT support, including the signposting of free resources including Microsoft's accessibility helpdesk, AbilityNet's My Computer My Way website or the Disabled Living Foundation's Living Made Easy website.

Robin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet explained that "ten or fifteen years ago AT was the domain of the specialist provider. With the advent of mobile computing, the vast majority of mainstream technologies can enable disabled people to work in full-time roles and embrace the benefits of modern life.”

Commenting further, he explained, “There is a widespread lack of knowledge and understanding of what mainstream technology can actually do for disabled people. Users themselves do not know what their existing system is capable of, which adjustments would be relevant, or which menu to use to make that adjustment.

"If Government can do more to raise awareness of accessibility options in partnership with organisations like AbilityNet and the major technology companies, everyone will benefit. Disabled people will become more confident in using technology and, this in turn will improve independence and employability, it’s a win-win.”

Earlier this year AbilityNet was invited to give written and oral evidence into the Committee's Assistive Technology Inquiry which led to the AT report. AbilityNet told Parliament that web accessibility, in particular making online job opportunities accessible, is also essential if the Government wants to hit its target of one million more people with disabilities in employment in the next decade.

AbilityNet is looking for technology that’s inclusive by design

Accessible gaming for disabled children, e-reader for blind people, AbilityNet is looking for technology that’s inclusive by design

Leading digital inclusion charity AbilityNet is on the hunt for inspiring tech projects for this year’s Tech4Good Awards. That includes the Tech4Good Accessibility Award, which recognises people using tech to transform the lives of disabled people. Past winners include SpecialEffect and Lifelites, who are doing amazing things like making computer games accessible for disabled people and helping children in hospices keep in touch with family and friends. Entries close on 8 May – it’s free to enter and is open to any individual, business, charity, social enterprise or other public body with a base in the UK.

Lifelites provides tech equipment and support to children with life-limiting conditions in everyone of the UK’s children’s hospices and was the first ever winner of the Accessibility Award in 2011. Their CEO, Simone Enefer-Doy, says:

“Winning the Accessibility Award was a pivotal moment for us. I realised that we weren’t just a start-up; here we were, being told by our peers that there was something very worthwhile about what we did. It’s helped us to sell our cause to potential funders and has helped us continue to grow and help more children and their families.”

Last year’s winner was Bristol Braille Technology, who have created an affordable Braille e-reader for blind people called Canute, designed with and by the blind community. Ed Rogers, Bristol Braille says: “Winning the AbilityNet Tech4Good Award came after a long stretch of work to finish the latest Canute prototype. We certainly weren't expecting to win but we're very grateful for the recognition after so many years' work."

The AbilityNet Accessibility Award is one of eight categories open for entry as part of the 2018 Tech4Good Awards, organised by AbilityNet and sponsored by BT. Now in its 8th year, the awards recognise organisations and individuals who create and use technology to improve the lives of others and make the world a better place. Other past winners include Open Bionics, WayFindr, Barclays Bank and LexAble – all of them demonstrating creative ways that tech can change people’s lives.

Mark Walker, Head of Marketing & Communications at AbilityNet says:

‘Technology has become part of everyone’s life but it can be a real game changer for disabled people. It’s always amazing to see the entries for this Award because there is so much innovation happening across the country, and we want to see how it is being used to make a positive impact in the lives of people with disabilities.’

Entries are judged by an expert panel of judges who have worked across the technology, digital and charity sectors and have the unenviable job of narrowing down 250+ entries to just 28 finalists.

So, if you or your team are working on something exciting that solves a problem for disabled people – be it the everyday mundane action, or the once in a lifetime experience - we want to hear about it. Let’s celebrate the brilliant work that the sector is doing in creating these life-changing and empowering technologies for good.

Deadline for entries is 6pm on 8 May 2018. For more information and to enter, go to:


A new way to log in will put an end to passwords, and that's good news for people with disabilities

A new web standard called WebAuthn will soon remove the need to enter a password each time you log in to a website - and may even mean the end for CAPTCHAs - those evil and (quite literally) twisted codes that annoy everyone but often bar users with a disability.

The problem with passwords

Passwords are not a good approach to securing our online lives. Not only do we need to remember which username or email address we used on a certain website, but we also need to make sure we always devise a cunning password and then make sure we make a note of it.

Everyone experiences the challenge of remembering passwords that are complicated (or should be) and different from site to site. Yours aren’t different you say? Yikes – that’s another major aspect to the problem with passwords. Once someone has got yours for one website, they’re simultaneously into several others. Add to the mix a disability or impairment that makes the practicalities of remembering or retrieving passwords even more problematic, and it’s easy to see the benefits that a new approach might bring.

monitor with a post it note on it displaying the word 'security'

Another significant flaw in the whole password approach is that, with all that we betray of ourselves on social media and the internet, it’s almost child’s play for someone to masquerade as us when contacting a company to reset a supposedly forgotten password.

Finally putting passwords in the past

This new standard does away with the need for passwords by using some other device – it could be your smartphone, computer or a specialist handheld ‘widget’ – to enable you to confirm that you are who you say you are. We’re all familiar with receiving a code by text or an email with a link we need to click to complete a registration process.

Having to manually enter a code is inconvenient and may include mistakes, but clicking a link is relatively pain-free. This latter approach is in essence what is proposed by WebAuthn – but in a much more seamless way. Being a fully-fledged W3C standard means it won’t involve anything so clunky as email, it will be able to be built right in to the device you would use to provide that all-important authentication.

Got a smartphone? If so, when logging into a website on your computer using this new WebAuthn approach, a simple message will pop up asking you to confirm that you wish to log in and – voila! No need to go into your emails or open an app – the integration on a wide range of devices permanently authorised to approve your login will make it as simple as a click of a button, a tap of a screen or perhaps (for a little added security) the tracing of a special gesture.

Our passwords cannot be forgotten as they will no longer exist - and our online accounts will be as secure as those devices used to provide authentication.


Will WebAuthn kill CAPTCHAs?

And what about the dreaded CAPTCHA? I won’t go into the ins and outs of these critters here – go and read many of my other posts – but surely these scrambled codes that prevent so many disabled people (myself included) from being able to prove we’re human and not robots are just another point at which we are asked to prove that we are who we say we are.

Dear W3C, please say that WebAuthn will kill CAPTCHAs once and for all...

Take Robin's 2 minute CAPTCHA challenge!

Robin Christopherson is AbilityNet's head of digital inclusion. Find more of his blogs here. 

Robin is hosting a webinar on the business case for accessibility, this Wednesday (18 April). Find out more now. 

Find out how Skype is paving the way to more accessible cross platform apps.

Support the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards - join our Thunderclap campaign

We want to encourage as many people as possible to enter the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards this year. Our awards are free to enter and attend, and there are some fantastic categories to choose from. To help us, please support AbilityNet's Thunderclap campaign.

What is Thunderclap?

Thunderclap is the first-ever crowdspeaking platform that helps people be heard by saying something together. Join our Thunderclap campaign, and you and others will post the same message at the same time, sharing our message about there being a week left to enter the 2018 AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards - deadline 8 May 6pm.

How can you help?

To support our Thunderclap campaign you choose between your Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr account to grant Thunderclap permission to post a message on your behalf. If our campaign reaches its support goal by the deadline, Thunderclap with automatically post our message and all other supporters' messages at the same time.

What about privacy?

When you log into Thunderclap, you're allowing their platform to share a single message on your behalf. They use the absolute minimum permissions possible. The platforms they integrate with sometimes include additional permissions that they do not use and they will not post anything from your friends' accounts.

For more information about and to join our campaign please visit the Thunderclap website

Free Webinar: The Business Case for Accessibility

Many of the UK’s biggest brands understand that accessible websites and apps are good for business, but too many people treat it as a bolt-on. As well as facing legal threats they could be missing out on a market that is estimated at £250bn. Our free webinar will explain the business case for making sure that your website and apps can be used by every customer.

The session is hosted by Digital Leaders and will be delivered by AbilityNet’s Robin Christopherson MBE, who has been a global expert in accessibility for 20 years and regularly speaks at international tech events.

Robin Christopherson has been a leading figure in accessibility for 20 years

He will use examples to show how inclusive design can boost revenue, deliver financial savings, improve your brand and reduce legal risks. He’ll also explain how accessible apps and websites can improve the experience for every single one of your mobile users – whether they have a disability or not.

The webinar will consist of a 30-minute presentation followed by a 20 minute interactive Q&A

Free Webinar: Autism and Accessibility, Design Challenges and Solutions

Accessibility never sits still and in April we'll be focussing on autism and accessibility - looking at the design challenges but also the solutions for people with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). Make sure you register to secure your place, even if unable to attend, as you'll receive details about when recordings will be made available to watch.

Autism and Accessibility, Design Challenges and Solutions

April 17 2018 at 1:00 PM BST

Summary of content:
This webinar will begin with an overview of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The current accessibility concerns for people with ASD will then be shared along with details of why bleeding-edge technology may not be autism-friendly. The webinar will conclude with examples of how technology can be helpful and beneficial for people on the autism spectrum.

Who it would be useful for:
Anyone working or interested in web accessibility and usability including but not limited to: developers, UX and UI designers, project managers, content providers, and business owners.

Please register for Autism and Accessibility, Design Challenges and Solutions webinar to secure your place.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Three cool smart glasses to help people who are blind or have sight loss

Last week saw the world's largest assistive technology fair CSUN held in San Diego and among the many forward-looking tech items on show were three noteable smart glasses with integrated internet-connected cameras. Helping the visually impaired and blind to see, these glasses are definitely worth a second look.

33rd annual CSUN assistive tech conference

This annual conference showcases all that is new and hot in the area of inclusive tech - both specialist and mainstream - and so naturally is of interest to AbilityNet and people with disabilities worldwide.

Nu EyesAmongst the many hundreds of exhibitors' offerings, three sets of smart glasses caught my eye.

1. NuEyes Pro from NuEyes

NuEyes bill their smart glasses as an electronic visual prosthesis for people with low or no vision. The lightweight glasses run on Android and include features like up to 12x magnification, the ability to change the colours and contrast of what you are looking at, bar/QR code scanning and OCR (optical character recognition) to recognise and speak out print documents. They can either be operated with a wireless controller or using simple voice commands.

The NuEyes Pro smart glasses are very powerful but also very pricey. Coming in at $5995 they're really meant to be provided under health insurance or, possibly one day, on the NHS.


AIRA are smart glasses that also use a camera and connectivity to bring assistance to people with a visual impairment. In this case, however, what you're connected to is a trained assistant who provides spoken feedback about what you are looking at. Useful for help with identifying objects, reading documents, menus or medication. These offer a pair of eyes to guide you through unfamiliar routes or indoor surroundings or perhaps to provide some crucial fashion advice! Currently only available in the US, the AIRA service is being trailled in other countries including the UK.

Aira glasses

Monthly price plans in the US start at $89 for 100 minutes of assistance. This includes the smart glasses, insurance and training on how to use them.

3. QD Laser

With QD Laser we're now getting really futuristic. Not yet available for consumers, this product does away with mini computer-screens mounted in front of your eyes and instead projects images directly on to your retina using lazers. Providing similar capabilities to the NuEyes technology above but with less bulk and weight, this technology is still at least a year away - although functioning prototypes were available on show at the QD Laser booth. They are estimated to cost a similar amount as the NuEyes product above – coming in at around $5000.

So those are the three smart specs that were making a splash at CSUN this year. For an audio tour of each product and interviews with each manufacturer, check out the Blind Bargains podcast.

And finally... Apple's Augmented Reality glasses may be closer than we think

Let's round off with a recent patent by Apple which, if this ever becomes a commercial product, it would undoubtedly make the wearing of smart specs a thoroughly normal practice. Apple would bring the benefits of reality augmented by computer-provided images, audio and spoken information to millions of users, and not just those with a vision impairment.

According to a recent Mashable article, reports suggest that the new microLED displays that Apple is working on - similar to more conventional OLED screens but brighter and consuming less energy — won't just be something for Apple Watches and iPhones.

The next-gen screen technology will also serve as the display for a new kind of product: Apple-made augmented-reality glasses - at least according to a report from DigiTimes. Let's hope that iGlasses (hey, that's quite catchy) are the next big thing, helping everyone with a better, brighter vision of the future.

Robin Christopherson is head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet.

Find more of Robin's blogs on accessibility and assistive tech, here. 

Related articles

BATA launches campaign to scrap £200 contribution for DSAs

BATA logoThe British Assistive Technology Association (BATA) has published research that shows the £200 charge faced by students who receive laptops under the Disabled Students Allowances (DSAs) is putting them off accessing assistive technology.

BATA’s report has revealed that there has been a worrying 30% drop in the number of students taking up assistive technology equipment recommended to them by professional assessors since the £200 contribution was brought in.

And other disturbing evidence gained by BATA shows that students with specific learning difficulties and mental health issues are those most affected by the charge.

As the report states, the £200 charge generates a very small amount of savings for the Government, yet it is having a negative impact on vulnerable people.

According to the report: “The direct cost saving from the introduction of the contribution is less than £5 million, out of a Higher Education budget of some £33 billion. This is roughly one hundredth of one percent - but is directly, negatively impacting some of the most vulnerable in society.”

On the back of its findings BATA has launched a campaign to persuade the Government to add the £200 charge for students to their student loan.

As part of this effort BATA has sent the report to over 650 MPs who have been asked to push the Minister for Universities, Sam Gyimah, to consider including the £200 charge in each student’s loan.