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Improving mobile phone advice for disabled and elderly users
A new website has been launched to help consumers search for and compare the accessibility features of thousands of mobile handsets.
The mobile accessibility website is part of an initiative designed to help disabled and elderly people identify mobile phones that have the features they need.
For example, people who use hearing aids might want to use the website to find a handset with an induction coil that makes it compatible with their aids.
People with low vision might want a handset with a large screen, or one where the font size can be enlarged, whereas people who are blind might want a handset with speech-to-text.
Information about features
As well as information about features, the website also lists whether an electronic version of the manual is available – so people with visual impairments can view it in large print or use software that reads it aloud.
The website is at the heart of the Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI).
Ofcom has welcomed the initiative, which was developed by the Mobile Manufacturers’ Forum and launched in the UK on 2 February 2011.
Ofcom has a duty under the Communications Act to promote equipment that can be used by as wide a range of people as possible.
The major UK mobile network operators (Everything Everywhere, O2, Vodafone, and 3) are also supporting the website and are helping to publicise it.
There are some specialist handsets on the market that are designed to be accessible for disabled or older people.
These are a good option for people who want to use them, but we know that many disabled and older people prefer accessible mainstream equipment wherever possible.
The mobile accessibility website lists the features of mainstream handsets that are available on every high street in the UK.
The website will also be a useful resource for people who work in mobile phone shops, who will be able to use it alongside tools like coverage checkers to help their customers find the phone and tariff that most suits their needs.
Not all manufacturers have has signed up to GARI, but we hope that the website will be so useful that more will consider doing so.
We also hope that disabled people who use the site will give feedback to the MMF to help it become made even more useful in the future.