What type of mobile phone user are you? Are you a Blackberry, Android, iPhone or another device? I am still a Blackberry user and fairly happy but peeking over the fence at iPhone and Androids. At first I stayed with the Blackberry because I travel internationally and they seemed to get better coverage. Plus I work all the time (bad habit of mine) and Blackberry really met my needs. However after I started using an iPad in May 2011, yes I was a slow adopter but thanks to Tim Springer I went to the other side and I really love my iPad. I like it so much that now I am considering moving to the iPhone to replace my Blackberry. Now I am not willing to give up my windows based Laptop but using all these devices together is sublime.
I have a lot of choices however many people have very few choices because there are still a lot of accessibility problems with mobile phones not to mention the Digital Divide where many consumers cannot buy the latest device available. It is discouraging to see my friends and family not having the same choices that I do because of accessibility issues.
In February CBS News did an article stating that the number of mobile phone subscriptions had reached 4.6 billion and was expected to hit 5 billion in 2011. It is critical that everyone have access to communications and technology and that includes people with disabilities.
“Mobile phone providers in rich countries offer advanced services and handsets, while people in developing countries increasingly use the mobile phone for health services and banking, said the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). “Even during an economic crisis, we have seen no drop in the demand for communications services,” said the agency’s Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure.” (1)
Mobile devices are being used to access all kind of data including financial data. “Between 500 million and 1 billion people will access financial services by mobile by 2015, depending on estimates. The MFS market will be dominated Asia, driven by mobile operator-led initiatives in developing nations to bank the unbanked. Remittance/transfers by mobile is growing three times faster than m-banking.” (2)
So what needs to be done to assure everyone can participate. A good first step is to design the device following Universal Design and Accessibility Standards. Blind, Vision Loss, Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Mobility Impairments, Intellectual Disabilities and the Elderly are impacted by inaccessible devices.
According to the W3C:
“More concretely, many of the mobile devices’ limitations match a number of well-known disabilities:
- the small screen can easily induce pages with very small characters,
- the limited viewport makes layout and browsing context changes as disturbing as for someone with limited vision,
- the sometimes difficult lighting conditions (e.g. from using a phone screen under the sunlight) can make colors and contrasts as difficult to identify as for a person with colors perception problems,
- the lack of mouse matches the inability of some persons to use a mouse due to motricity difficulties,
- likewise, the very limited and often hard-to-use keyboards available on mobile devices is evocative of the difficulties some persons with disabilities can have to interact with a keyboard
- the social and mobility context of some mobile users make the use of some modalities (sound, video) for multimedia content inappropriate, matching the inability for some people to hear sounds or see images
- in a mobile context, a user might have a very limited or patchy attention span, as someone with a cognitive disability might have
- on mobile networks where time and cost are often limiting factors, being able to determine what an image is before it gets downloaded matters — at having such a description would help a blind user
- the use of some technologies (plug-ins, scripts) might not be possible on a number of mobile devices, like they wouldn’t be usable with a number of assistive technologies” (3)
Everyone needs access to the internet, communications and technology. I applaud companies that have made accessibility part of the development life cycle. In the future, I will be blogging about some of these amazing best practices.