I still remember Nokia 6600 (hmm. Nokia forgot this phone, can’t find on their site except the developer specs and found the info on Wikipedia!) that first ever mobile phone where user could install a screen reader either Talks from Nuance or Mobile Speak from Code Factory. Although the phone Nokia 6600 is big in size but was only the phone that users who are blind or partially sighted can use independently and it was in use for a long time indeed.
Today, I see there are a lot of mobile devices running on different platforms and all of them do come with accessibility features; some may have a lot of features and some may have limitations but overall, today there are a lot to make a choice. Interestingly, lots of applications are being built with support to assistive technologies.
As mentioned earlier, a few years back, Nokia 6600 was the only phone that can be used with a screen reader but today, there is a huge list of supported handsets (source: Nuance) available in the market; these does include not just phones that can be used only with keypad but also phones that are touch based.
The choice doesn’t end here… today, users can choose different platforms such as Android, iOS, Windows, BlackBerry etc… Let’s see what are the features that would help people with disabilities on each platform:
- Symbian phones:
- Can access the phone with screen reader Talks by Nuance, Mobile Speak by Code Factory
- Zoom application by Nuance enable user to use the phone with magnification
- DAISY2GO – an application to read Digital Talking books
- Loadstone GPS – an Accessible GPS application
- Blackberry – BlackBerry has recently introduced it’s own BlackBerry Screen Reader that works on BB 9220, 9320, 9350, 9360 and 9370. It works fairly well in exploring the menus, email, browsing, call management and Twitter. I haven’t tried with many other applications. As of writing this post, I see the screen reader getting stuck, if user play around the different applications for about 20 minutes and this issue has been reported to the Accessibility Team at Research In Motion (RIM)
- iPhone – Though it’s an expensive but the best that a person with disability can use. iPhone or for that matter any device that run on iOS including Mac, iPad, iPod etc.,) has the accessibility features included. Some of the accessibility features on iOS are:
- VoiceOver – helps users with vision impairment
- Zoom & Large text – for low vision
- Siri – something similar to voice recognition
- Assitive Touch – for users with motor disabilities
Now, what’s next? As there are more platforms and devices available, there are more applications made available; there are applications for almost every device to do everything like shopping, news read, transport, buy movie tickets, games, find a route, know about stock and what not?? but unfortunately, not many of them are accessible. One needs to understand and implement mobile accessibility techniques. There are no specific guidelines yet; but these resources for Mobile Accessibility Guidelines by Henny Swan would be really helpful. If you are building an iOS application, would be great to read this tiny article on How to build accessible iOS apps and Overview of Accessibility -iOS technologies on Apple Developer site
Like above, there are resources and technique to make applications accessible on any platform that developer wishes to build! Let’s join and build an inclusive mobile experience!