How Do Blind People Use Mobile Phones

| | posted on:Accessibility

How Do Blind People Use Mobile Phones

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For totally blind people in many ways, the use of cellular phones, especially the latest ones is somewhat similar to the use of computers. The biggest similarity is that most phones are difficult to be used without assistive technologies, or at least built-in accessibility functionalities. A more complex mobile phone requires some kind of a screen reader or a voice recognition system to function well for people who are totally blind. When mobile phones started to emerge on the market, their accessibility was less complex. Blind people practically had to memorize the layout of the phone’s keypad, which is very similar to regular phones, practically with two extra needed keys, send and cancel. After learning these keys, it was possible to use most of the phone’s functionality, even without being able to see the display. Of course, initially caller id was not available, but in practice that was the only difference. As mobile phones started to become more advanced, it required more and more effort to make mobile phones accessible to blind people. Phone manufacturers started to build voice recognition into their still simple phones. While access was very different for blind and sighted people, at least it was possible to use the phone book, check phone status, etc, even if the achievable functionality was limited. After the voice recognition features, phone manufacturers started to build a more complex voice response system into the phones, so some of the menus were able to announce the current item, and the phone’s response to user interaction. However, this still only provided limited functionalities. The major gap started to emerge between the blind and sighted users, when mobile phones started to run operating systems, and users were able to use them similarly to a regular computer. At this point, it became necessary to develop a screen reader, which could be used on the mobile phone similarly to how blind people use the computer. One of the biggest challenge of mobile screen readers is that this technology is far behind the technology used on desktop computers. While very often the same companies produce the mobile screen readers which already have experience in desktop screen readers, partly what’s missing is the many years behind the development, following the development of the latest technologies and the needs of users. Also, there is much less guidance for developers who create applications for mobile phones on how to make these applications accessible.More About This…