Friday, February 02, 2007
From time to time, our own T.V. Raman shares his tips on how to use Google from his perspective as a technologist who cannot see—tips that sighted people, among others, may also find useful. - Ed.
Wikipedia defines mashup in the context of web applications as a "(web application hybrid), a website or web application that combines content from more than one source."
More generally, web mashups are created by leveraging web APIs to present data in new and innovative ways—often, such innovation comes about by combining data from a multiplicity of sources. However, notice that combining multiple data sources into new and innovative views is not the only possible use of web APIs; in particular, you can also leverage these APIs to produce alternative views of a given data source. Newer uses of web APIs such as those provided by Google Maps, Google Calendar or Google Search often fall into this category of providing convenient user access. Thus, it is possible to embed a Google Calendar or the map for a given location into one's website.
Moving from the above scenario to leveraging web APIs in the context of mashups for enabling better accessibility is but one step away. As an example, envision a very basic Google Maps mashup that embeds a map on a web page—but with zoom level set to twice the normal default. This might make a very interesting starting point for a low-vision user. Given the expressiveness of web APIs, we can go a lot further. I believe web mashups provide a very rich platform for building creative accessibility solutions with the goals of:
- Providing the ability to build highly optimized custom views for cases where a "one size fits all" solution does not work
- Experimenting with different accessibility approaches to discover solutions that work for inclusion into the mainstream