Thursday, April 11, 2019

Brazil: Latin America’s biggest market promoting mobile accessibility

With the introduction of the General Regulation on Accessibility in 2016, Brazil became one of Latin America’s most active promoters of making telecommunications accessible for people with disabilities and older users. One important part of this initiative, is informing Brazilian citizens about the kind of accessibility features and solutions that they can already find on the market today and in mainstream devices.

Furthermore, ANATEL, Brazil’s national regulatory authority for telecommunications, is also working with the country’s network providers and device manufacturers, encouraging them to improve their offers to persons with disabilities. We have asked Miss Patrícia Rodrigues Ferreira responsible for Gerência de Universalização e Ampliação do Acesso at ANATEL to share some insights into her agency’s key activities in promoting mobile accessibility throughout the country.

What is ANATEL’s experience in promoting the accessibility of telecommunications? 

Anatel has been promoting accessibility:

  • On Anatel’s website and social media, such as Facebook and YouTube. On YouTube, Anatel published the General Regulation on Accessibility (Resolution nº 667/2016) in Libras (Brazilian sign language):
  • At public events organized for private and public sectors.  It’s important to highlight  the “Anatel Prize for Accessibility 2019”. The first event will take place on 16 April, and Anatel will reward the operator most committed to accessibility in telecommunications services, based on a Ranking of Accessibility;

What measures have worked best so far to improve mobile accessibility? 

Anatel has involved in its regulation activities persons with disabilities, telecommunication companies, public bodies, associations representing persons with disabilities. This dialogue with the sector has been improving the regulation, helping Anatel to get to know the needs of the sector, especially in the mobile service, the most widely used service in Brazil;

Where do you see the biggest potential for improvement?

The biggest potential for improvement of the accessibility in telecommunication services is the expansion of the broadband. Anatel is working to expand the broadband in Brazil (which is a very large country) encouraging companies, establishing new covering commitments for operators and improving the regulation;

How does ANATEL use GARI for advancing mobile accessibility? 

Companies are enforced to disseminate the accessibility technologies available in the commercialized devices according to each disability, as it is established in the General Regulation on Accessibility. Anatel encourages the companies to use GARI to fulfil this obligation, because GARI is a worldwide platform. It is also important to mention that Anatel’s website includes information about GARI:

What do you see as the necessary next steps? 

The next steps involve evaluating the impacts of Resolution nº 667  through a dialogue with telecommunication companies, public bodies and associations representing persons with disabilities.

What would you want from industry to support your objectives? 

The information about the accessibility technologies from industry is very useful for the companies to disseminate these information on their websites and on other platforms. So, the support from industry at this point is crucial for the success of the accessibility in telecommunication services.

Many thanks to Patrícia and ANATEL and we are looking forward to hearing about the winners of the “Anatel Prize for Accessibility 2019”.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Accessibility features for older users

Today, nearly one fifth of people living in the EU is 65 years or older (1), by 2030 this age group is expected to make up a quarter of the population (2), and the number of people aged 80+ is expected to more than double until 2080.

Parallel to this demographic trend, information and communication technology (ICT) is increasingly replacing and supplementing many services in our societies and often constitute the only way to access certain information and services.

For all these reasons, it is important that older users feel comfortable with using ICT and in particular mobile devices and tablets which have, for many, become the main access to the internet and online services.

Indeed, mobile phones and tablets, but also wearables, come with a number of in-built features that can make their use a lot easier.

These features offer help with vision for example:

  • users can chose higher contrast, which allows to increase the contrast between writing and background for example,
  • they can increase the font size to a degree easily readable for them,
  • they can use screen magnifiers to see details and non-text elements larger;

To support hearing, devices have features such as:

  • subtitles or closed captions for video and audio content, 
  • the ability to create hearing profiles for the left and right ear individually,
  • some mobile phones can synch directly with certain hearing-aids,
  • and in some cases speech to text apps can transcribe the spoken word into text; 

Features that help with memory, attention and decision-making are also very helpful too. These include:

  • phone and address books that associated names with photos of the person, 
  • simplified user interfaces that reduce the number of options on the screen, 
  • assistance instructions that give helpful tips on how to proceed,
  • the no-screen time-out function which means that the device will wait as long as necessary for the user to enter PIN or password or answer a yes/no question without turning off;

These devices can be wonderful tools for older users to better hear and see, get access to additional information and services and stay connected with family and friends.

Organizations such as Oasis Connections in the US are developing how-to guides and booklets that try to explain features particularly useful to older users in a concise way. The latest guides on accessibility features in iOS9, iOS10 and Android 7 (Nougat) are available from the Oasis Connections website in English and Spanish: