Wednesday, May 27, 2020

For blind users, accessible mobile technologies are the means for a self-determined, independent life

The strength of the GARI project lies in the strong partnerships we have with the disability community and organisations such as the Austrian Association in Support of the Blind and Visually Impaired (Hilfsgemeinschaft). Over the years, the Hilfsgemeinschaft has given us feedback on the usability of the GARI website and the content of the GARI database for accessible devices and has helped us to improve the use of the database to blind and visually impaired users. Now, the Hilfsgemeinschaft has also implemented the GARI database in their own website, making the search for accessible devices more convenient for their members and helping spread the word about this service in the German speaking countries. 

The CEO of the Hilfsgemeinschaft, Klaus H√∂ckner, has also given us some insights into what accessible mobile technologies mean for his members and which areas we need to further work on. 

  • Has mobile technology changed the life of the members of your organisation? 
Klaus: Definitely yes. For blind and vision-impaired persons, mobile technologies are a window into the world which allows them a self-determined and independent life. Mobile technologies have made it possible for people with disabilities – and not only them – to actively participate in social life and society. 

  • What do you consider the biggest challenge right now in the development of accessible technology? 
Klaus: The inclusion of these user groups into the development stage of technology as well as the compliance with existing guidelines and rules for the accessibility of devices, software and services. There exists a whole set of standards and guidelines for accessibility – they just need to be followed and implemented. 

More focus must also be placed on the accessibility of emerging technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) and people with disabilities need to be included into their development from the beginning.  

Another important factor is the ageing of the population in parts of the world. Age often goes hand in hand with disability, with reduced mobility, diminished sight, hearing and cognition, which effects a large part of people above 65 years old. 

  • Are there any aspects we are overlooking in the public debate right now when talking about accessibility and the rights of persons with disabilities? 
Klaus: The diversity among people with disabilities. The disability community is a mirror of society. The is no such as thing as the “typical” person with disability. Just as in any human community, we find a broad spectrum of different capabilities, desires, education and skill levels, needs and restrictions. And they are not a minority –1.4 billion people in the world live with some sort of permanent or temporary disability. 

  • If you had any wish open, what would you wish from industry in regard to mobile accessibility? 
Klaus: Include people with disabilities from the beginning. Talk to them and their representatives. Don’t develop specialized solutions but embrace the concept of Design for All or Universal Design. 

  • Your organisations has recently implemented the GARI database into your website. What do you hope to achieve? 
Klaus: A higher visibility of accessibility solutions in the mobile technology space – both for consumers as well as manufacturers. 

The MWF is very happy that the Hilfsgemeinschaft has decided to use GARI very actively and to make the GARI database directly available to their members via this new page:

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