Submitted by Shaun Uk on Wednesday, April 4, 2012.
I just wanted to raise a point that has been playing on my mind lately. With the recent round of patent lawsuits from the likes of Apple, Samsung and Motorola, it seems a very real propect that companies are going to struggle when it come to implementing accessiblitiy into their touchscreen devices. Take for example, Apples flick left or right gesture to move to the next element on the screen. Now not wishing to get into a apple vs android or whoever argument, the flick gesture does seem to be a very good way to move around screen elements on a touchscreen device.
From what I understand, and I could be mistaken, Apple have patents on all their voiceover gestures and would not be happy letting another company use them. This surely would mean that a company wishing to make their device accessible would have to reinvent the wheel each time to come up with ways to interact with the touchscreen without falling foul of any of Apples gesture patents. Imagine if a company like Dell or HP had come up with the standard qwerty keyboard and patented it so no other computer manufactuer could use the qwerty keyboard design. Each computer would have a total different method of interacting with it, which would of course be very confusing and require the user learning many different methods depending on which machine they were using.
Wouldn't it make more sense to have a agreed upon standard for touchscreen gestures for accessiblitiy? This would mean that a blind user could learn the 'basic' gestures for moving around and selecting or opening elements on one device and know that these gestures would work on any accessible device from any other company. This should also make it easier for companies to implent accessiblity into their devices as they would not have to waste alot of time on figuring out different ways to do the same thing.
Now, I realise that agreeing on what gestures are the best for doing certain things is subjective but love or loathe Apple, you must acknowledge that they were the first company to implent accessiblity into a touchscreen device and so many blind users will have learnt and accepted apples voiceover gestures as the 'standard' method for using a touchscreen device. Not to say that if Android comes up with a way to do something on a touchscreen that it couldn't be added to the agreed gesture standard.
I realise that the biggest issue here is getting the major players in the field, Apple and Google, to actually talk and see that restricting gestures to their own devices is not in the intrest of either the users or themselves.
Touchscreens seem to be here to stay and so there will need to be a universal way for the visually impaired to use them.
I would be very intrested to hear your opinions on this.