1. What does accessibility mean in regards to mobile phones and tablets?Accessibility for mobile devices is about providing access so that everyone who wants to use our devices can, regardless of their abilities. However, we understand everyone has different needs that vary widely across our users. This is why accessibility is realized in the product's design and features as well as how we provide information and services to our users.
2. Why do manufacturers of mobile phones care about accessibility?Accessibility affects all of us. We create experiences that connect and enrich people's lives and we want everyone to benefit from that. Designing for accessibility allows us to optimize the user experience by considering the needs of people with disabilities. This insight can benefit everyone - users who have a specific need all the time (like a blind person) and users who have the same need some of the time (like a person driving eyesfree). It compels manufacturers to push the boundaries of what is possible and be innovative. That's at the heart of technology that meets real needs.
3. How is accessibility built into the design of mobile phones and tablets?Accessibility is considered throughout the product development cycle. Examples include designing the volume controls and touchscreen interface on a mobile device and voice recognition and text-to-speech software that create the new experiences that simplify how users interact with the device. In addition to providing native features within the device, we provide enablers for compatibility with many third party apps and assistive devices such as Braille displays and Bluetooth keyboards. Compatibility is important because it is not our desire to block any of the accessible features other devices may specialize in. Apps can enrich the user experience and open up the door for users to customize their device to meet their specific needs. All of this amounts to providing users with choices as they use their mobile phone and tablet.
4. How do you integrate the feedback from disabled users?Feedback is a good thing! Mobile technology changes rapidly, so staying in contact with users on how they are using our products and how accessibility needs are changing is essential to maintaining a relevant product portfolio. To understand users' needs, we collaborate with disability advocacy groups, standards agencies and research organizations in the form of dedicated focus groups and product testing and demonstrations. Also, there are many blogs and discussion boards online where individual users can contribute. It helps to receive both positive and negative feedback from users with accessibility needs. All of this feedback is circulated to our designers as resources to draw on.
5. What is GARI?The Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI) is a project designed to help consumers learn more about the various accessibility features of mobile phones. By providing a global, standardized database of features that users care about most, the GARI helps them identify phones and apps that may assist them with their particular needs. All of this in one place! I highly recommend that you check out the GARI website at gari.info or download the free GARI app.
6. What is the greatest challenge for the manufacturers in regard to accessibility?I would have to say that the varied accessibility needs and experiences from one user to the next present a challenge in designing for universal accessibility. Everyone's needs are different. However, by creating more of a dialogue between manufacturers and users, we can clearly define expectations on both sides and continue to achieve even greater success in developing accessible mobile devices.
7. What are the developments you expect to see in regard to accessibility of mobile devices over the next couple of years?Because of the nature of its product development, there's always an opportunity to improve in the next version and open up access to more and more users. Over the next couple of years, there will continue to be developments in voice recognition, the browsing experience, and all of those exciting things that make our devices smarter at anticipating our needs and simplifying the ways we interact with them.