Saturday, October 15, 2022

10th M-Enabling Summit: Key trends in mobile accessibility

For the 10th time, the M-Enabling Summit is bringing together thought leaders from business, government and education to discuss “Digital Inclusion: Strategies for Equal Opportunities”. Susan Mazrui, Director for Global Public Policy at AT&T, has been a loyal attendee of the Summit and shares her insights on key trends in mobile accessibility and expectations for the Summit. 

How has accessibility evolved over the past three years from your perspective? In general and in regard to mobile services and devices in particular? 

Susan: Unlike many tech changes, which have a somewhat predictable patterns of adoption, the pandemic disrupted how we all learn and do business. Access to high speed internet service became critical. Because of existing disability rights laws and commitments to diversity and inclusion, many businesses and schools were forced to scramble to find ways to support people remotely that were accessible. Businesses and academic institutions needed on-line and mobile tools that could address the needs of people with disabilities and a wide range of user needs. Because of the huge demand, technology had to become accessible more quickly — and it did. 

What is something that device manufacturers and mobile service providers can do that would really advance accessibility for users with disabilities and older users? 

Susan: It is critical that people with disabilities, older people and those who are knowledgeable about accessibility and usability work together as part of the product teams throughout the product life cycle. People with disabilities and older users need to be part of the solution — and this will likely identify unintended use cases, as well. 

In hindsight, what would you consider the most important steps in making mobile communication more accessible? 

Susan: I think companies need the motivation to develop and purchase products and services that are accessible and usable. Those that developed products and services need to be able to show their investors that it made business sense to improve accessibility and usability. 

Do you think 5G can make a difference in accessibility? 

Susan: Absolutely! There are mobile applications that are possible with 5G that weren’t before. The high speed and low latency of 5G make travel more accessible, on-demand communications easier and in emergency situations, it may save lives. At minimum, 5G will improve the quality of life for most of us, especially those who are older or live with disabilities. 

What are the key trends you see in accessibility (both negative and positive)? 

Susan: The trend for work from home and hybrid workplaces mean that more video communications and mobile tools will need to continue to be accessible. The bar has been raised.  

Our biggest risk comes from assuming that automated decision-making tools will always work. They can provide amazing forms of accessibility, but they can also reinforce or amplify systems that already marginalize people. We need human beings who are willing to raise awareness. We need businesses, institutions, and governments to invest in research and adopt the best practices to address and prevent further marginalization.

What do you expect from this year’s M-Enabling Summit? 

Susan: I expect to learn from brilliant minds who work in accessible technologies, best practices from business and a better understanding of the most pressing issues in the disability and senior communities. 

10th M-Enabling Summit: 

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