The Open Letter Initiative and the Mobile Web

Lisa Herrod

One of the things I find absolutely frustrating about the web community in Sydney is the lack of information at industry nights and other local web events about mobile accessibility and, in particular, anything related to the W3C and Mobile Web Best Practices.

For the most part seminars and industry nights hosted by the Mobile Monday guys or AIMIA focus on marketing, advertising, gaming and identifying ways of further monetising the mobile industry. BORING. I’ve even stopped attending the Mobile Monday events because they appear to have such little interest in promoting any discussion around best practices or mobile accessibility.

Given that these are the two most prominent Australian industry groups hosting discussions on mobile technology at the moment, it seems pretty obvious that there’s little interest in this area for either group. Even the Web Standards Group has had very few mobile related events.

Mobile Means Mobility

Mobile use is at an all time high globally and it offers affordable access to the web for a huge proportion of people including many users with disabilities. It’s time for industry groups to get back on track and deliver informative sessions on how we can produce accessible, usable web content.

The W3C WAI Mobile pages provide links to a couple of documents that deal with mobile web accessibility and how we can better design and develop mobile sites for users with disabilities:

There is also a great deal of information over at the Mobile Web Initiative Best Practices Working Group blog (MWI BPWG).

The Open Letter Initiative

This morning via my RSS I came across an article on a favourite blog of mine by iheni on The Open Letter Initiative (you may also know Henny from the Web Access Centre blog). The Open Letter Initiative, which commenced in November 2007, was spurred by Google’s announcement of the open mobile platform Android. The letter reads:

This open letter is addressed to companies from the mobile technologie (sic) sector, developers, research scientists, organisations, politicians and all kinds of disseminators (sic)as well. The open letter informs about the perfect mobile device for blind persons, screen reader software for mobile platforms, mobile internet access, satellite navigation for blind pedestrians, mobile access to map data, accuracy of GPS receivers, self-help, commonalities of blindness and dyslexia/illiteracy, accessibility, corporate responsibility, proposals for Nokia’s and Google’s public relations and the importance of free software and affordable cell phones for the many blind people from developing or newly industrializing countries.

What Do We Want? Discussion! When Do We Want It? Now!

What I’d really like to see is a lot more information presented by web community groups and industry nights that focus on accessibility issues for the mobile web. I don’t give a toss about what the latest Nokia is, or what cool data plan 3 is offering at the moment. I want presentations, discussions and tutorials. I want to hear real people talking about their experiences and I want us to do it now.

Of course the groups I’ve mentioned here are all Australian, and this is not an issue specific to us. Are other countries addressing this better than we are? I’d say so… but how?

Getting Started

Being from Australia means that I’m most aware of the local Australian industry groups you might contact here. But there are no doubt many more in your local area too. For those of you outside Australia, what are the best industry groups to contact? Let us know.

If you’re in Australia, you can contact any of the following organisations and tell them you want to see more discussion around mobile web accessibility:

All it takes is for us, the community, to speak more loudly. Contact the industry groups you’re involved with and tell them you want to know more. Better still, put something together and present it yourself. But don’t forget to let me know… I want to come along and see it!