Abbrianna MacGregor

Aiming for Mobile Accessibility

Abbrianna MacGregor

New technologies are continuously being developed and brought to market. All the better for the public, right? It depends. For leading mobile phone manufacturers, it is crucial to keep all demographics in mind—particularly those with disabilities.

Nearly one in five of the world’s population lives with some kind of recognized disability. My grandma, who suffered from Parkinson’’s disease, could never operate a mobile phone due to her severe motor dysfunction. She purchased one in case of an emergency, but had to ask her grandchildren to dial the numbers and read the screen for her. For modern technology to avoid becoming an obstacle for many, it must be accessible to those with disabilities. The effort the technology industry is channeling toward this cause is evident.

Mobile operating systems are constantly adapting their technologies to make interacting with their phones a bit easier for people like my grandma. Features such as Siri, Dictation and Voiceover are just a handful of the many tools iOS devices implement to provide headache-free usage for users, regardless of ability. Similarly, many Android devices offer features such as text-to-speech, haptic feedback, adjustable targets on touchscreens and various other attributes that are equally beneficial.

Features like Safari Reader on iOS devices remove visual distractions, thus making it easier for those with attention deficit disorders or autism to focus on one task. Google Chrome for Android offers readability options to remove content such as ads, sidebars and pop-ups from the page. Users can zero in on content without fear of being sidetracked by ads. These features are also helpful to those with visual or motor impairments. Eliminating unwanted content removes the stress from the manual process of exiting out of or avoiding the extra content.

It can be a difficult choice for people with disabilities to find a phone with features best tailored to their needs. The Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI) has a website that allows users to easily compare varying phone features. These resources can definitely help, but concerns persist despite the recent effort directed at making more accessible products available.

Many place their focus on continually adding new features, but some users with disabilities actually want the opposite. A phone with only basic features would satisfy the needs of many, but they’re becoming increasingly rare. The efforts of major companies and manufacturers are definitely appreciated. Nonetheless, progress must continue for mobile phones to include options that are universally accessible.

Did You Know?
Duke Medicine and Duke University, as part of a new study called Autism & Beyond, have developed an app that utilizes video technology to examine children. The purpose of this mobile technology is to evaluate the emotions and behavior of children between the ages of one and six, and indicate if a child may have autism or mental heath issues.

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