Thursday, August 29, 2013

Why do we need sign language videos?

With the revamp of the GARI website, we wanted to make the database itself as accessible as possible. In this vein, we added to the number of written national languages our first sign language translation: ASL - American Sign Language. You can see it online at, where Heather Dowdy, the chair of our Accessibility Working Group is explaining the GARI site and project.

Perhaps not surprisingly for those that don't sign, we often heard the question: "Why do you need sign language videos? Can't deaf people just simply read the written text?" 

To answer this question, one needs to know that for persons who are born deaf or hard of hearing, or who experienced hearing loss in early childhood, sign language is the mother tongue and the written national language is their second language. 

So one global language for the deaf then? Unfortunately it is not this simple either. There are at least as many sign languages as there are written national languages. There is American Sign Language for the United States overall, Auslan in Australia, JSL in Japan, ISL in India, BSL in the UK, DGS in Germany…. with many local varieties and dialects. Estimates are that there are about 200 sign languages used around the world today (not counting the local varieties).

To cover at least some of the most used sign languages and make GARI's content accessible to as many deaf and hard of hearing persons as possible, we are looking for national and local deaf communities that could help us provide more sign language videos on GARI. 

If you are a proficient sign language user and would like to help us in this respect, please drop us a line at sabine.lobnig (at) - we are looking forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Pushing accessibility in app development

August has been a busy month for mobile accessibility: an international conference, a new accessible app challenge and the pre-launch of the new GARI website in Australia all have worked towards raising awareness of the issues and encouraging the development and uptake of more accessible devices and apps. 

On 14-15 August, the M-Enabling Australasia 2013 conference brought together local and international experts on accessible technologies, mobile service providers, developers, manufacturers, retail and business groups, regulators, policymakers, and civil society. The focus was on access to mobile technology for persons with disabilities and senior citizens. 

At the conference, MMF Secretary General Michael Milligan presented the new GARI website, which now features an expanded search feature covering mobile phones, tablets and apps. The new GARI can be found at and is already available in 5 written languages  and 1 sign language for starters, with other written languages being completed.

Just one day before the event, the  Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) announced their new accessible app challenge called "Apps For All". The aim of the challenge is to create better access to mobile technology for the millions of persons with disabilities as well as senior citizens that are still missing out on the mobile digital revolution. 

The issue is that many developers do not know about or do not follow the accessibility guidelines provided by mobile platform owners including Apple, Google and Microsoft. It is important that accessibility is built into the app from the very beginning. It starts with properly labelling buttons so they can be read by screen reading software used by people who are blind or vision impaired, to innovative apps specifically designed to improve the lives of people with disability or the elderly, ACCAN writes. 

The challenge will award apps for mobile phones and tablets in the following categories:

• Most accessible mainstream app
• Most innovative app designed for people with disability
• Most accessible children's app
• Most accessible game app

Prizes and entry deadlines will be announced at a later date with the winners to be revealed at ACCAN's annual conference next year.

Similar competitions furthering accessible and accessibility app development are the US FCC's Chairman's Awards for Advancement in Accessibility and Vodafone Foundation's Mobile for Good Europe Awards 2013.

Monday, August 12, 2013

M-Enabling Summit: GARI being presented in Sydney

From 14-15 August 2013, the M-Enabling Australasia 2013 Conference and Showcase will take place in Sydney. This first Australasian edition of the M-Enabling initiative follows events in Washington D.C., San Francisco and Milan and looks at mobile technology as potential game changer for people with disability and senior citizens. 

The M-Enabling initiative wants to encourage access and inclusion through usable, accessible and affordable mobile equipment and services - the perfect stage to present the new GARI. 

On Thursday, Michael Milligan, Secretary General of the MMF, will showcase the new GARI website in the session "Mobile accessibility: The manufacturers’ perspective" (11:30-12:45) and explain about the new sections of the database that in this version also includes information on accessible tablets and apps. 

We hope to give people a first feel for the new site and motivate them to use GARI as soon as it is officially launched. We also hope to get honest feedback and to understand what people need when they come to GARI. 

If you are in Sydney next week, please come and talk to Michael, have a look at the new site and let us know what you think!

And of course, do let us know which accessibility apps you like and use and want to see in GARI's brand new app section!