Sunday, December 4, 2011

Update on our review of GARI

In launching our review of GARI in August, we were interested to receive your thoughts on the accessibility features that we report on as part of the project. We received a lot of great feedback and as a result, we are now in the process of implementing the changes. We will be making the descriptions easier to understand and we will be adding 15 new features to the template for reporting on. There will also be changes to the website to make it easier to navigate as well as other improvements. We thought the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities was the time to announce these changes and you can find our press release here.

We will be detailing the changes in separate posts so we can explain their relevance and usefulness to those with limited vision, hearing, dexterity or cognition. In the mean time, we would like to thank you for the comments and suggestions made as part of this review and we look forward to continuing to improve GARI for the benefit of those with special needs.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Starting the day with Mobile Accessibility

Today we were very fortunate to be invited to a breakfast hosted by Dr Ádám Kósa MEP from Hungary and President of the Disability Intergroup within the European Parliament. The meeting was arranged to discuss how to make mobile communications more accessible and to present the GARI project to members of the European parliament. Also attending were representatives from the European Commission and the European Disability Forum (EDF). Background material for the meeting is available here.

EDF Acting Director, Javier Güemes, explained at the meeting that accessible mobile, smart phones and apps are crucial to making sure persons with disabilities are included in the society: “Accessibility and interoperability of communications devices are vital to making possible the professional and cultural inclusion of people with disabilities. At the same time, when not accessible, the technology can create new obstacles and can lead to new forms of discrimination.”

EDF said that it welcomed initiatives such as the GARI project because it raised awareness of accessibility issues and it represented a step forward for a better connection to the digital world for 80 million persons with disabilities in Europe.

Having such events opens the door to better dialogue and a better understanding of the needs of those with sensory or physical limitations. We would like to thank Dr Kósa, for making the event possible and for reinforcing the value of projects like GARI.

Don't forgot that you can follow the latest GARI updates, including when new models are added to the database, on Twitter @GARIupdates

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Inviting your comments on GARI

The MMF is currently undertaking a review of the various features that mobile handset manufacturers report on within the GARI database.  In one sense, GARI in its current form is essentially v1.0  - and having got it to where it is now, we are now undertaking a full review with stakeholders to get their feedback, comments and suggestions. In particular, we are keen to receive feedback on what features different groups of users use/look for when considering a mobile phone. Such information will help us to further improve the information provided to consumers. 

If you would like to make any suggestions, then please email us on accessibility at mmfai dot info by the 30 September 2011 so that our working group that oversees the project can consider them. We look forward to receiving your comments.

Friday, July 29, 2011

World report on disability

Around 1 billion people or 15 percent of the global population experience a disability and this is rising due to population ageing and chronic health conditions according to the first ever World report on disability undertaken jointly by the World Health Organization and the World Bank.

Included in these figures are around 95 million children who have a disability with about 13 million of these suffering severe disabilities.

The report notes that people with disabilities struggle with everyday activities. Even in high-income countries, between 20% and 40% of people with disabilities struggle with everyday activities while in the United States 70% of adults with disabilities still need to rely on family and friends for assistance with normal daily activities.

People are disabled by society, not just by their bodies, says the WHO, but it does highlight actions that can be undertaken to overcome barriers. The report certainly makes for sobering reading and is available at:

Monday, June 6, 2011

GARI database incorporated into AMTA website

Following on from our successful integration of the GARI database into the site in the US, we have now partnered with our colleagues at the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) to include it on their website as well. You can access the Australian version of the GARI database via this link.

Monday, April 4, 2011 incorporates GARI

The annual CTIA Wireless conference is always an important event on the industry calendar. This year was no different, but what made it even more important this year was that we saw the launch of their redesigned site. AccessWireless is the CTIA's website to help people with disabilities, seniors and their families find accessible wireless products and services in the United States.

As part of the redesign, the MMF has been working with the CTIA to incorporate GARI into the site so that for the first time, consumers can "Find a Phone" by searching and comparing the accessibility features of a variety of wireless handsets, via GARI.

As we mentioned in the associated press release it is through partnerships such as this that we can expand awareness of the GARI project and assist more people to benefit from it. We hope to be able to continue developing such partnerships for the benefit of all.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

GARI project endorsed by Britain’s Communications Consumer Panel report

A report published in January, on consumers’ views on how usable mobile phones are and how they could be improved, has many good things to say about the MMF's Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI).

The report, Making phones easier to use, produced by the Communications Consumer Panel in Britain - an expert panel that advises the regulator and government on consumer issues - focuses on the communications needs of older people in general and people with various special needs when it comes to using mobile phones.

In particular, the report is very supportive of the GARI project calling it “the most significant information initiative currently available...”, and  “we would strongly encourage other manufacturers to participate”.

The report echoes some of the findings that emerged from GARI’s own research, such as which individual features or groups of features help particular groups to use mobile phones more easily, such as people with visual or aural special needs, or with mobility or dexterity needs. But it makes the point that, while no individual phone can meet the needs of every group, there are improvements that can be made to benefit all users. This is certainly something that manufacturers are constantly striving for.

One broad area of potential improvement is visual – larger, clearer key symbols, and a better indication of which keys have been pressed, for instance. Software was also identified since it is a key element to making a mobile phone simpler and more intuitive to use.

A common theme among older users surveyed in the report is that shop assistants tend to be younger and have no problems understanding new phones’ different features, while that this is not always the case for older users. Therefore retail staff may not fully appreciate older customers’ need for help in choosing between different phone models.

One of the reasons that the GARI website was developed as an online resource was to help people learn about the various features available from the comfort of their own home where comparisons can be made and choices narrowed at ones own leisure. The retail experience is still important though, because one still needs to be able to see and feel a phone to make sure it is right. In many stores you can still try out a phone, something that is important to many people, but particularly for those with additional needs. Armed with the information obtained from the GARI database, and a visit perhaps during the quieter times of the day, where retail staff have more time to assist, should result in a much better experience. 

The MMF certainly welcomes the Consumer Panel report and will be looking closely at its various recommendations.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

GARI launches in the UK

We were pleased to be able to formally launch the GARI project in the UK last week in conjunction with the Mobile Broadband Group, representing UK Operators, and Ofcom. The press release is available here, and a more detailed article is available from the Ofcom website.  The independent consumer advisory panel to Ofcom, the Communications Consumer Panel also issued a press statement that said:

“The launch of the GARI scheme in the UK has considerable potential to improve the information available about the accessibility features of mobile phones. This can only make it easier for consumers to find the most suitable mobile phone for their needs."
The Consumer Panel has just recently issued a new research report  Making mobiles easier to use on the issue of usability and accessibility which will we cover in a separate post.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What is the GARI project?

The title of this post is a question that I get asked quite often and so it seems fitting to answer it in our first post. In short, GARI stands for the Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative. It's a project designed to help consumers learn more about the various accessibility features of mobile (cell) phones and to help them identify phones with the features that may assist them with their particular needs. 

The project itself was developed in response to requests from consumer and advocacy groups for improved information regarding the accessibility of mobile phones. We continue to work with a number of groups in different countries to develop the project in line with the changing nature of the technology and to improve usability. We welcome the opportunity to work with other groups to gather feedback and to improve awareness of the site.

Since its initial launch the project has received widespread support from Governments and other stakeholders. Take for example the comments made in France when we launched the first version of our accessibility reports and then the joint comments by the Australian Minister for Communications and the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities when we launched the online database in Australia in 2010.

We currently have information on over 90 features of phones - any of which can make life that little bit easier - and about 300 phone models. If you want to stay updated on the latest additions to the database, learn more about new features and how they can help address particular needs or just get updates on how the project is going, then subscribe to the blog or come back and visit often - you'll always be welcome.