Thursday Oct 13, 2011

Java Mobile Speaks! Report on our LWUIT accessibility work for Java ME

Over the past year Oracle's Java Mobile team has been building accessibility support into LWUIT, the Lightweight UI Toolkit for Java ME. Last week Ofir Leitner and I gave a presentation on this work at JavaOne.

In a nutshell, this is what we've done in this research project:

In our talk last Thursday at JavaOne, we demonstrated the prototype screen reader providing access to the standard LWUIT "UI Demo" application, running on a Nokia N95 mobile phone. This nearly 5 year old device uses a 332 MHz AOMAP-2420 ARM11-based microprocessor. It is noteworthy that this phone has about 1/4th the processing power of the iPhone 3GS, the first mobile phone to ship with a built-in screen reader and a full accessibility framework. You can download and play a Quicktime movie showing the screen reader speaking the LWUIT UI Demo application running in the Java mobile emulator.

In an interesting coincidence of timing, the day after our JavaOne presentation of this Java mobile accessibility research, the Federal Communications Commission published their Report and Order implementing provisions of Section 104 of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. This order requires that manufacturers of equipment used for "Advanced Communications Services" - things like e-mail and IM and SMS - must make those products and services accessible to people with disabilities by October of 2013. Failing to do so by that date when it was "achievable" to do so subjects the manufacturer and/or service provider with fines of up to $100k/day.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, at the end of 2010 there were 5.3 billion mobile phone subscribers in the world. As noted by Mobi Thinking, in their July 2011 report, "Feature phones sales (let alone ownership) still outnumber smartphones 4:1", with less than 300 million of the 1.3 billion mobile phones last year being smartphones. And since most feature phones come with Java, this research has the potential to enable an awful lot of devices to provide accessible user interfaces...

Disclaimer: at this point our work is still research. It is not part of any announced product roadmap. As the standard Oracle presentation disclaimer states, you should not make a purchasing decision based on this research.

Saturday Sep 17, 2011

Mobile accessibility at JavaOne - using LWUIT for Java ME

At JavaOne this year, I will be presenting in the talk "Mobile Accessibility with LWUIT" (session #21761, on Thursday Oct. 6th at 2pm in the Parc 55 hotel). In this talk, we will discuss and demonstrate the work we have been doing to enable developers to create accessible mobile applications for the Java ME platform using LWUIT, the Lightweight UI Toolkit developed in Oracle Israel.

Our Java mobile accessibility work is very timely, in light of the 21st Century Communication and Video Accessibility Act that Congress passed last year. Among other things, this act requires web browsers on mobile devices be accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired; and requires that advanced communications services such as text messaging, e-mail, instant messaging, and video communications be accessible to people with disabilities.

Our work on Java ME accessibility is part of a larger effort on building accessibility into mobile technologies generally, itself part of the AEGIS project supported by the European Commission. In addition to our own work, we will also show sample accessible applications developed using this framework by our AEGIS partner FundaciĆ³n Vodafone, Spain.

If you are in San Francisco for JavaOne this year, stop by our session, and talk with the engineers behind this great work.

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Peter Korn

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