The WHO defines disability as “a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives”. Web Accessibility should address this interaction aspect of “disability” so that a wide range of problems are tackled.
While the need for and usage of assistive technologies may raise barriers that hinder the perception, the understanding, and the operation of the Web, other barriers may be caused by technological and situational impairments; think, for example, of people with low vision that use a tablet rather than an interactive board or a desktop. Depending on the device used, the range of barriers being faced may vary. One could use assistive technologies to enhance the capabilities of a PC, a tablet or a smartphone; but one could also rely on desktop browsers on very large screens, interactive TVs, Web kiosks, gaming consoles, Web browsers in cars or gym equipment, interactive boards, tangible and natural user interfaces, or more esoteric devices. Due to particular interaction modalities, access to information or interactive services may be hindered or even prevented; due to the quantity and richness of information and services, ability to process information may be reduced; due to infrastructure (e.g., cellular networks in under-developed lands), certain services may become unusable; due to contingent factors, everybody can become situationally impaired; due to cultural or language differences, emotional or language barriers may ensue. In each of these situations, decoupling user interfaces from backend services could enhance interoperability both for people who rely on assistive technologies and those who don’t, improving the quality of the experience regardless of one’s own devices.