Thursday, May 18, 2023

Celebrating 15 years of GARI and mobile accessibility development

Helping consumers find devices that work for them is the mission the MWF set out to accomplish by creating the Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI). From its beginning in 2008 in the form of a spreadsheet with accessibility features, GARI has grown into an online database comprising 20 languages and information on over 1,500 mobile phones, tablets, Wearables and Smart TVs. 

Still today, a majority of users are unaware of the many accessibility and assistive functions mobile devices offer. A 2019 GARI research project confirmed that mobile devices make a huge difference for users with disabilities in terms of having access to services and society. However, it also showed that the penetration of mobile technology among people with disabilities is still lower than among non-disabled peers even in countries with very high mobile uptake, suggesting that the problem is even worse in low-income countries.

One of the issues identified is a knowledge gap among accessibility professionals and retail staff – limiting the advice being given to users with disabilities. GARI can effectively bridge this gap by providing an overview of accessible devices available on the market and helping users with specific requirements identify devices that will fulfil their needs.

While we continue to address those needs, we have come a long way over the last 15 years. Some of the milestones on this journey include: 

the creation of a freely available online database of accessible devices in 20 languages;

a repository of information on over 130 accessibility features in 1,500+ mobile phones, tablets, Smart TVs and Wearables;

a de-facto industry standard for accessible devices that help promote accessibility in all markets; 

the participation of over 30 different manufacturers; 

the adoption of the GARI database by government bodies and disability advocacy organisations around the world in order to advance mobile accessibility at a national level;

the completion of 6 feature reviews with participation from international and national organisations of persons with disabilities, representatives of consumer and senior citizen organisations, accessibility experts and national regulators; and 

the completion of research projects that have investigated a range of topics including the  social impact of GARI and whether accessible mobile phones can bridge the gap in the provision of assistive technology. 

To celebrate the 15 years of GARI, the MWF is working on updating the GARI feature guides and website, organising online educational sessions with key partners around the world and expanding our audience reach further.  Follow us on Twitter @GARIupdates to keep in the loop, and get in touch with us if you would like to learn more about GARI or join in our efforts to raise awareness about mobile accessibility solutions. 

Logo GARI showing the number 15 with the belly of the 5 representing a tablet

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