The market for telecommunication devices is a reaching full saturation point with limited markets still open to opportunities. A study by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and The Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ict) disclosed that there is a great interest in the untapped market of disabled mobile users. The hope is this will drive more companies to start creating devices and applications especially designed for people with disabilities. The market has room for growth and companies entering this market have an opportunity to capture a large segment of the more than 650 million people around the world who have a form of disability.
Mobile devices can give accessibility to people with different types of disabilities by creating applications specific to the disability a person is facing. Software can be configured to increase font sizes for the vision impaired and read text for the blind. The study suggests hardware and software companies have to come together to create product and services designed with specific disabilities so it can perform the service well. Until now the tools available for the disabled were adaptations of an application designed for something else entirely.
The Secretary General of ITU Dr. Hamadoun I. Touré said, “ITU encourages all Member States to implement regulatory and policy measures to promote access and ensure the accessibility needs of all people are met, this is especially timely given the widespread adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which requires ICT accessibility of all its signatories, most of which are also ITU Member States.”
The disabilities which can be addressed with mobile technology are vision, hearing, dexterity, cognition and even illiteracy, although it is not technically considered a disability.
The problem with vision impairments is the person is not able to or has limited capacity to use the touchscreen to perform basic functions such as dialing or texting. The solution can be a screen reader software able to turn text to speech with accuracy and use gestures to control different functions.
Hearing impairment deprives the person from being able to communicate on a phone and limits their access to services such as emergency. Solutions for the hearing impaired can include phones designed with tactile features such as vibration and video communication.
Issues with dexterity result from people who are not able to use their limbs to use the functions of the phone. Amputations, accidents and birth defects make it very hard or almost impossible to use small devices that require accurate inputs. Advanced speech recognition has made great strides and almost every function of the phone can be made with speech commands.
Cognition disabilities can be related to memory, communication, comprehension, analytical skills and other impairments specific to the patient. Solutions can be created with applications designed to adapt to problems related with cognitive issues with simple UIs (user interfaces). The issue of illiteracy can also be addressed by providing the same type of interface.
“This report will help guide all stakeholders as they implement business practices and policies to promote accessible mobile phones and services at home. We want to see affordable, accessible mobile phones and services used to ‘m-power’ persons with disabilities and other users around the globe,” said Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau.
Courtesy of HealthTech Zone