by: Jennifer Langston  News and Information
More Americans are using mobile devices and other technologies to track some aspect of their health at home, from diet and exercise to sleep patterns and bloodwork.
Because people who are blind or have low vision are more likely to have health problems such as obesity or diabetes, it’s especially important that mobile health (mHealth) applications — health tracking sensors that connect with smartphone apps — work for those users.
Yet University of Washington researchers who conducted the first academic review of nine mHealth applications on the market in March 2014 found none met all the criteria that would make them fully accessible to blind customers.
In a paper published in the 2015 issue of theJournal on Technology & Persons with Disabilities, they investigated nine common iPhone mHealth applications that upload data from blood pressure and blood sugar monitoring devices. Accessibility shortcomings ranged from improperly labeled buttons to confusing layouts that don’t work well with iPhone VoiceOver or Android TalkBack services that “read” information on the phone screen.
“We wanted to see if these health applications would be out-of-the-box accessible, and most really weren’t,” said lead author Lauren Milne, a UW computer science and engineering doctoral student. “They made a lot of amateur mistakes that people make when they build apps.”
The researchers also concluded it would take little effort for developers to make mainstream health sensors fully accessible to blind smartphone users — largely by following accessibility guidelines already established by Apple and the federal government.
“It wouldn’t have been hard to make their apps accessible by making that a priority in the first place. They could have been heroes from the get-go,” said senior author Richard Ladner, a UW computer science professor who leads multiple projects to make technologies more broadly accessible……..
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Source: University of Washington