If like me you are a member of that elite group of nerds known as the twitterati - you would have noticed an almost cataclysmic event this week - Apple gave some talks and unveiled OS3 for iPhone and the iphone 3Gs. For days no-one has twittered about much else - when they started queueing at the shop, live text relay - not from the event but from those watching a feed of the event online, and best of all blow by blow accounts from those watching their iPhone upgrade by connecting to iTunes at the peak of demand
Ok I'm not going to just sit here and slag off my fellow twits and comment on the quality of information and the banality of my daily online life, instead lets look at what apple have put onto the iphone for people with a disability. First up lets be really positive, the fact that they have done anything at all is to be applauded, and reflects the fact that for many disabled people, phones are the platform of choice to bridge the digital divide. But what have they actually done ?
Ive blogged before about the power of touch as an interface for people with learning disabilities and for those excluded by keyboard and mouse - so I do believe fthat for many touch is a very accessible interface, add to this some of the features that the iPhone 3G S has and things look interesting. Most discussed is the addition of a screenreader (voiceover) with that comes a new set of gestures that make sense of touch for a person with a visual impairment. Probably the most important is the "rotor" movement - it all makes sense on a webpage but is going to take a liitle bit of time to get used to I suspect. Add to this the other features that are available, predictive text, voice control and the zoom function and the iPhone starts to look like a serious contender in the accessible phone stakes.
When AbilityNet conducted research into mobile phone choices for disabled people we identified that decisions were based both on form and function, and the new Apple iPhone potentially offers a great deal for both. But what are the dangers, well the biggest problem is that potential buyers may be overwhelmed by the amount of positive feedback and publicity given to the iPhone and not see what else is available - screenreading for the blackberry has been introduced, Talks software for Nokia S60 phones and a range of solutions for Windows Mobile, in amongst the chatter its easy to get lost and to be honest any visit to a shop is unlikely to help a disabled user, too few shops have any understanding of accessibility and what little they know is limited to one brand or one or two models
So its going to be down to the new digital inclusion champion to address this - too much choice in the market means that disabled users can be given very bad advice - that needs to be addressed asap
Until then im back to twitter - I need to address the complete failure of the phone manufacturers to address interoperability with my coffee maker - I need an app that bluetooths a command to my coffee maker to start brewing - is that too much to ask ?
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