by Matt May
Accessibility takes many forms. While many if not most people have a fixed concept of accessibility that revolves around screen-reader compatibility with published content, the reality is that each product, be it an application, a document, a device or a protocol, has its own capabilities and limitations. And when we review our product teams’ work, sometimes we find unexpected ways to improve the user experience for people of all types.
A recent example is one of our newer products, Adobe Edge Inspect—one of a host of apps we’re working on to make HTML-based development easier for developers, designers and testers. Edge Inspect has three components: a desktop application that runs in the System Tray on Windows or the Menu Bar on OSX, which connects mobile apps running on iOS and Android to a Google Chrome extension, allowing testers to browse and debug the same mobile site across numerous devices simultaneously. It’s one of those apps that you don’t know you need until you know you could have it.
When I saw this demo last year, once I picked my jaw up off of the floor, I grabbed their demonstration iPad and turned on VoiceOver, the screen reader that’s built into iOS. This is usually how I shame mobile engineers. (Who says accessibility people can’t have hobbies?) But to my surprise, most of what was there already worked. Before they’d done any custom work, the Edge Inspect team had built a tool that would let me test mobile accessibility use cases alongside the visual layout.
Adobe Accessibility’s Michael Jordan worked with the Edge Inspect team to complete the job, both by tying up loose ends (like naming buttons and ordering controls), and by introducing accessibility features into the Chrome extension. That work is shipping in the latest version of Edge Inspect—which, by the way, you can get just by signing up for a free Adobe Creative Cloud account.
It’s important to remember that it’s not just the end user of a mobile site who may have a disability; your developers and testers may make use of that support as well. We talk a lot with our colleagues at all levels within Adobe about the role accessibility plays in what we create, and how people build upon our work. We can talk about how this or that is required by law, or by policy, but sometimes, as with Edge Inspect, we find a great opportunity to expand both the audience and the capabilities of a tool, with just a little polish. We have even more improvements coming soon, but more importantly, by working together, we have another product team that’s taking a broader view when it comes to designing for their users.