In the US in 1996 the Telecommunications Act was passed and one of the lesser known sections was section 255 which required that telecommunications products and services be accessible to those with disabilities. It said that products and services must be“designed, developed, and fabricated to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities” when it is readily possible to do so. The internet did exist at this point but was not mass market but the act was relatively wide ranging and does cover mobile phones and things that can have a service – such as a PC with with a network card.
Fast forwarding nearly 20 years and the FCC is still responsible for enforcing the act in the US and issues regulations that interpret the original act. These are arcane and convoluted and at best at least a few years old – so how can you the builder of a product or provider of a service make sure that you are fulfilling the requirements? Wisconsin University has provided a good starting point with an oddly named ‘Product Design Ideas Browser’. The site is rather confusingly designed but provides a good list of common sense points for most common computer or gadget accessibility problems.
If you have experience with accessibility some of these are very basic but as a whole site site can serve as a good introduction to those who do not have experience or as a check for the obvious problems for those of use who are more experienced.
The site is called Product Design Ideas Browser.