Monday, April 23, 2012

Looking for phones with accessibility API’s?

Along with the built-in features for accessibility in today's smartphones, there are many after-market products available that make using mobile phones easier for people with cognitive difficulties, impairments or disabilities.

These include devices that convert the contents of a mobile phone screen into speech for users with limited sight, external keyboards for users who have trouble typing on phones and products that can display speech in text for users with hearing loss.

But just like an old printer might not work with the latest laptop, for some of these products to work effectively their software must be compatible with the software used to operate a mobile phone.

This is why phones with Application Programming Interfaces (API), which allow accessibility software programs to communicate with a mobile handset, is one of the features consumers can now search for in the GARI database when choosing a new phone.

An example of how important this software compatibility can be is with the use of Braille devices that give blind and deafblind users access to mobile phone technology.

Special displays can be connected to a mobile phone, which read a screen’s contents back to the user in Braille and by connecting a Braille keyboard to a phone a user can control many of the phone’s functions.

But unless a user’s phone has an API that can be used to support the Braille keyboard and display, the devices won’t operate correctly.

To search for a phone that supports accessibility API’s use our online search tool or click on the 'find phones' link at the top of this page.

As always, before buying a phone you should check its compatibility with the specific external hardware you want to use it with and if possible test the phone to determine whether it will meet your needs.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Searching for a phone with a front mounted camera?

One of the new features that we recently added to the GARI database was whether a phone has a front mounted camera. This simple feature may seem a novelty to some, but for many users with hearing loss it can make the world of difference - allowing them to carry out a face-to-face sign language conversation using a video call or conferencing function. 

Video calling features are becoming more and more popular on modern smartphones and for deaf users, choosing mobile phones with a camera on the same side as their phone’s display allows them to visually converse in real time over the mobile phone network.

In a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, Andrew Wiltshire, an employment services manager who is also fourth-generation deaf, said that he found using video messaging on his iPhone gave him more opportunities to communicate than ever before.

“In the past we've had to really rely on other people to do things for us. We might feel quite dependent,” Mr Wiltshire said. “With the changes in technology, it's probably broken down the last barrier. Finally, with deaf people, we can become mobile. We can go around and still communicate.”

“It means I'm not disadvantaged or behind. I'm with everyone else … my hearing mates, we're all on an equal footing. I feel more confident and more able to do things," Mr. Wiltshire said.

A front facing camera can also be of great benefit to people who have trouble holding a phone to their ear. Rather than having to hold and use their phone in a conventional way, users can simply place their phone on a table or in a mount and carry out a video call hands-free.

It’s important to remember that even when you choose a phone with the right video capabilities, two-way video conferencing will depend heavily on the mobile networks speed and users should attempt to test the phone model themselves to determine whether it meets their needs.

To search for a phone with a front mounted camera and other video calling features use our online search tool (or just click on ‘Find Phones’ in the menu bar at the top of this page) or download the free GARI App from the Nokia Store or the Android Market.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Detailing new accessibility features

As you might have already seen - we have now added support for Italian to the site, taking us to 12 languages with several more in the pipeline - so keep checking back for the latest additions.

Another reason to come back is that we will shortly begin a series of articles that will detail many of the 15 new mobile phone features that we added following our feature review last year. Many of these features are routinely used, and probably without much thought, but their usefulness can have special significance for those with particular needs. So our articles with help highlight how these features are making a difference - and also serve as a reminder to those of you who might be looking for a new phone for someone else, what things might be worth considering.