Archive for the 'accessibility web standards' Category

Reading List 292

Reading List 291

  • Link o’the week: A Management Maturity Model for Performance – “Despite advances in browser tooling, automated evaluation, lab tools, guidance, and runtimes, however, teams struggle to deliver even decent performance with today’s popular frameworks. This is not a technical problem per se — it’s a management issue, and one that teams can conquer with the right frame of mind and support” by Big Al Russell
  • The tech tool carousel by Andy Bell
  • Internet Explorer retires on June 15, 2022 – For a long time, it was my browser of choice for downloading Firefox.
  • React Native Accessibility – GAAD 2022 Update – React Native accessibility is dragging itself into the 21st century
  • HTML Sanitizer API – Chromium & Firefox intend to ship a new HTML Sanitizer API, which developers can use to remove content that may execute script from arbitrary, user-supplied HTML content. The goal is to make it easier to build XSS-free web applications.
  • W3C Ethical Web Principles – “The web should be a platform that helps people and provides a positive social benefit. As we continue to evolve the web platform, we must therefore consider the consequences of our work. The following document sets out ethical principles that will drive the W3C’s continuing work in this direction”
  • What’s new for the web platform – Jake and Una at Google i/o yesterday showing new web platform features. Highlights: native <dialog> element for popup dialogs that has a11y baked in, the ability to give accent colours in CSS to form controls, declarative lazy loading of off-screen/ less important images. This should allow us to remove hacky components from our web pages, so they’ll be faster (as they’re in the browser) and more likely to be secure and accessible. Can we kill crappy framework dialogs and other form components and replace them with native browser-based equivalents?
  • The page transition API uses CSS animations for highly customisable wiggly things to make your sites and PWAs feel more natively app-like. It’s really nice (don’t be put off by Jank Architect’s infomercial demeanour)
  • Debugging accessibility with Chrome DevTools – another Google i/o vid
  • WordPress’ market share is shrinking – “If WordPress wants to maintain its market share or better yet, grow it, it’ll have to get its act together. That means it should focus on the performance of these sites across the spectrums of site speed and SEO. The Full Site Editing project is simply taking far too long. That’s causing the rest of the platform to lag behind current web trends.”
  • Responsive layouts for large screen development – “More than 250 million large screen Android devices are currently in use, including tablets, foldables, and Chrome OS.”
  • The UK’s Digital Markets Unit: we’re not making any progress, but we promise we will “in due course” – “at least this document confirms that it is still Government policy to do it “in due course” and “when Parliamentary time allows””
  • Porting Zelda Classic to the Web – deep dive into the technical challenge to port an ancient game written in C++ to Web Assembly

Making Accessible Documents – the Movie!

Normally, I bang on endlessly about Web Accessibility, but occasionally branch out to bore about other things. For Global Accessibility Awareness Day last week, my employers at Babylon Health allowed me to publish a 30 min workshop I gave to our Accessibility Champions Network on how to make accessible business documents. Ok, that might sound dull, but according to I.M.U.S., for every external document an organisation publishes, it generates 739 for internal circulation. I’m using Google Docs in the talk, but the concepts are equally applicable to Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, and to authoring web content.

It’s introduced by my Professional Better Half, Taylar Bouwmeester –recipient of the coveted “Friendliest Canadian award” and winner of a gold medal for her record of 9 days of unbroken eye contact in the all-Canada Games– and then rapidly goes downhill thereafter. But you might enjoy watching me sneeze, sniff, and cough because I was under constant assault from spring foliage jizzing its pollen up my nostrils. Hence, it’s “R”-rated. Captions are available (obvz) – thanks Subly!

My comments to the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Competition in the Mobile App Ecosystem

Here is my personal submission to the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s report on Competition in the Mobile App Ecosystem. Feel free to steal from it and send yours before before 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday May 23, 2022. I also contributed to the Open Web Advocacy’s response.

I am a UK-based web developer and accessibility consultant, specialising in ensuring web sites are inclusive for people with disabilities or who experience other barriers to access–such as living in poorer nations where mobile data is comparatively expensive, networks may be slow and unreliable and people are generally accessing the web on cheap, lower-specification devices.

Although I am UK-based, I have clients around the world, including the USA. And, of course, because the biggest mobile platforms are Android and iOS/iPad, I am affected by the regulatory regime that applies to Google and Apple. I write in a personal capacity, and am not speaking on behalf of any clients or employers, past or present. You have my permission to publish or quote from this document, with or without attribution.

Many of my clients would like to make apps that are Progressive Web Applications. These are apps that are websites, built with long-established open technologies that work across all operating systems and devices, and enhanced to be able to work offline and have the look and feel of an application. Examples of ‘look and feel’ might be to render full-screen; to be saved with their own icon onto a device’s home screen; to integrate with the device’s underlying platform (with the user’s permission) in order to capture images from the camera; use the microphone for video conferencing; to send push notifications to the user.

The benefits of PWAs are advantageous to both the developer (and the business they work for) and the end user. Because they are based on web technology, a competent developer need only make one app that will work on iOS, Android, as well as desktop computers and tablets. This write-once approach has obvious benefits over developing a single-platform (“native”) app for iOS in addition to a single-platform app for Android and also a website. It greatly reduces costs because it greatly reduces complexity of development, testing and deploying.

The benefits to the user are that the initial download is much smaller than that for a single-platform app from an app store. When an update to the web app is pushed by a developer to the server, the user only downloads the updated pages, not the whole application. For businesses looking to reach customers in growing markets such as India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Kenya, this is a competitive advantage.

In the case of users with accessibility needs due to a disability, the web is a mature platform on which accessibility is a solved problem.

However, many businesses are not able to offer a Progressive Web App, largely due to Apple’s anti-competitive policy of requiring all browsers on iOS and iPad to use its own engine, called WebKit. Whereas Google Chrome on Mac, Windows and Android uses its own engine (called Blink), and Firefox on non-iOS/iPad platforms uses its own rendering engine (called Gecko), Apple’s policy requires Firefox and Chrome on iOS/iPad to be branded skins over WebKit.

This “Apple browser ban” has the unfortunate effect of ham-stringing Progressive Web Apps. Whereas Apple’s Safari browser allows web apps (such as Wordle) to be saved to the user’s home screen, Firefox and Chrome cannot do so–even though they all use WebKit. While single-platform iOS apps can send push notifications to the user, browsers are not permitted to. Push notifications are high on business’ priority because of how it can drive engagement. WebKit is also notably buggy and, with no competition on the iOS/iPad platform, there is little to incentivise Apple to invest more in its development.

Apple’s original vision for applications on iOS was Web Apps, and today they still claim Web Apps are a viable alternative to the App Store. Apple CEO Tim Cook made a similar claim last year in Congressional testimony when he suggested the web offers a viable alternative distribution channel to the iOS App Store. They have also claimed this during a court case in Australia with Epic.

Yet Apple’s own policies prevent Progressive Web Apps being a viable alternative. It’s time to regulate Apple into allowing other browser engines onto iOS/iPad and giving them full access to the underlying platform–just as they currently are on Apple’s MacOS, Android, Windows and Linux.

Yours,

Bruce Lawson

React accessibility resources

Ok, so you’re making a React or React Native app. Don’t! Make a Progressive Web App. Sprinkle some Trusted Web Activity goodness to put it in the Play store wrap it with Capacitor.js if it needs push notifications or to go in the App Store (until the EU Digital Markets Act is ratified so Apple is required to allow more capable browsers on iOS).

But maybe you’re on a project that is already React Native, perhaps because some psycho manager flew in, demanded it and then returned to lurk in Hades. In which case, this might help you.

Testing

I like Expo (and wrote some random Expo tips). Expo Snacks are like ‘codepens’ for React Native.

Bugs?

Open Accessibility bugs – Facebook’s official list, and accompanying blog post.

Reading List 290

USA readers: you have just over 2 weeks to tell the US regulator your thoughts on the Apple Browser Ban, whether you’re in favour of Apple allowing real browser choice on iOS by setting Safari free, or against it. You’re welcome to use Bringing Competition to Walled Gardens, our response to a similar investigation by the UK Competition and Markets Authority for inspiration/ cutting and pasting. Make your voice heard!

American regulator seeks comments on the Apple Browser Ban

In the USA, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is requesting comments on competition in the mobile application ecosystem after Biden signed Executive Order 14036 on Promoting Competition in the American Economy:

today a small number of dominant internet platforms use their power to exclude market entrants, to extract monopoly profits, and to gather intimate personal information that they can exploit for their own advantage. Too many small businesses across the economy depend on those platforms and a few online marketplaces for their survival

NTIA is looking for “concrete and specific information as to what app developers, organizations, and device (i.e.,phones; tablets) users experience, and any potential challenges or barriers that limit app distribution or user adoption”. Written comments must be received on or before 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on May 23, 2022.

Several of its questions encompass Apple hamstringing Progressive Web Apps by requiring all iThing browsers use its own bundled WebKit framework, which has less power than Safari or single-platform iOS apps. Here are some of the questions:

  • How should web apps (browser-based) or other apps that operate on a mobile middleware layer be categorized?
  • What unique factors, including advantages and obstacles, are there generally for app development — especially start-ups — that are relevant for competition? 
  • Are there studies or specific examples of the costs or advantages for app developers to build apps for either, or both, of the main operating systems, iOS and Android (which have different requirements)? 
  • What other barriers (e.g.,legal, technical, market, pricing of interface access such as Application Programing Interfaces [APIs]) exist, if any, in fostering effective interoperability in this ecosystem?
  • How do policy decisions by firms that operate app stores, build operating systems, or design hardware impact app developers (e.g., terms of service for app developers)?
  • How do, or might, alternative app stores (other than Google Play or the Apple App Store), affect competition in the mobile app ecosystem?
  • What evidence is there to assess whether an app store model is necessary for mobile devices, instead of the general-purpose model used for desktop computing applications?
  • Is there evidence of legitimate apps being rejected from app stores or otherwise blocked from mobile devices? Is there evidence that this is a common occurrence or happens to significant numbers of apps?
  • Are there specific unnecessary (e.g., technical) constraints placed on this ability of app developers to make use of device capabilities, whether by device-makers, service providers or operating system providers, that impact competition?

I urge American developers to send comments to NTIA, whether you’re in favour of Apple allowing real browser choice on iOS by setting Safari free, or against it. You’re welcome to use Bringing Competition to Walled Gardens, our response to a similar investigation by the UK Competition and Markets Authority for inspiration/ cutting and pasting. Make your voice heard!

Reading List 289

Reading List 288