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Wellington app startup's blind ambition

During pol sci and history lectures at Auckland University, I sometimes used to look at blind student Jonathan Mosen down in the front row and think, "Poor sod, how is he going to make his way in the world?"

(Equally, he could have thought, "How is that slacker down the back reading Rip it Up ever going to amount to anything?")

The concern was misplaced.

Mosen has enjoyed a successful career. In fact two careers - one in broadcasting, the other in assistive technology. He's held senior roles at multinationals, and frequently jetted between NZ and the US. His CV includes four years helping the American Council for the Blind set up an internet radio network.

Jonathan's latest project is a start-up, Appcessible, staffed entirely by blind people. It's a company that will audit iPhone and Android apps, offering their makers tips on how to make them more accessible to the vision-impaired - and earn more revenue in the process.

Do good, make money
Appcessible's five staff aim to do good, but it's do-gooder project.

"I've funded it from revenue generated from other technology consultancy work I've done," Mosen tells NBR.

"I'm confident we've identified a niche, and that the investment will deliver a good return."

Appcessible will increase revenue for app developers while making the world of mobile devices a more accessible place," Mosen says.

The company's home page certainly doesn't mess around on the "good return" point.

"Can you afford to let over100,000 potential users of your mobile app go to a competitor? If your iOS or Android app isn’t accessible, you’ve walked away from a gold mine," it tells visitors.

ABOVE: An Appcessible promo clip.

"For the average iPhone or Android user it might be difficult to imagine how a person without sight or with limited sight can navigate the flat surface of a touch screen. The fact is, they do, in large numbers. Blind people use VoiceOver – the screen reading software built into Apple’s iOS, and Talkback – the screen reader built into Android, to perform the same tasks as their sighted counterparts. Today, blind people are able to stay connected with family, friends and business associates, enjoy unprecedented productivity on the job, play games, and even take photos."

Unsurprisingly, Mosen is also a big fan of Siri.

Appcessible is based in Wellington, but like most in the app space it has wider ambitions.

"We anticipate the majority of our business for the app audit services will come from the US," Mosen says.

Recruitment ambitions extend beyond the capital, too.

"There is an element of self-determination about this project, kind of like many of the Maori initiatives where organisations take pride in being by Maori, for Maori," Mosen says.

"So I hired a blind web developer with a lot of experience in CMS and e-commerce integration, who is based in Ireland." Of the four other staff, two are in NZ, two in the US.

"Our evaluators are at this point working on a commission basis as we see how much demand there is," Mosen says. 

Give his track record, I'm guess they'll be a lot.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

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Comments and questions
2

It's a really good idea to have UAT done by people who would actually use the product. Makes a lot of practical sense. I wish them well. Hopefully they will be tough markers.

[UAT = user acceptance testing - CK]

I agree with BrentBart. There is clearly not enough testing done by independent potential users of software products or sites.
Only yesterday I had a frustrating experience with a major Govt. Department site when trying pay online. A very simple issue but clearly no one had really tested it from a users point of view.
I wish these guys well. I'm sure they will be successful.