Friday, June 2, 2017

Old and new features - GARI goes into its 4th feature review

Since its creation in 2008, the Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI) has evolved into the central source of information for mobile accessibility, used around the world by 17,000+ people every month. GARI is available today in 17 languages and still pursues its mission of helping all consumers to find devices that fulfil their individual needs - whether it is a mobile phone for a hard-of-hearing person, a Smart TV for a blind person, a tablet for a person with learning disabilities or a Wearable for a person who cannot move their hands.

One key factor in GARI’s success can be found in the fact that it’s not just a top-down approach but that it has developed into a collaborative platform - thanks to the regular feature reviews and stakeholder consultations the Mobile & Wireless Forum (MWF) has committed to. In these feature reviews, the MWF invites all stakeholders including those representatives of the disability community, consumer and senior citizen organisations, accessibility experts, industry and national regulators to comment on the current set of features the database reports on and to suggest new accessibility features to be added.

While the first two feature reviews in 2010 and 2013 resulted in many new features added to the database, feedback received in the last review in 2015 centred around improvements to the website, the ease-of-use of the search interface and some suggestions for improving the feature descriptions. We are curious to see what will be the feedback we receive in this 4th official GARI feature review and are looking forward to your comments.

If you would like to participate, please have a look at the guidance documents (http://www.mwfai.org/publications.cfm?lang=eng&cat=) and send your contribution to michael.milligan@mwfai.org or sabine.lobnig@mwfai.org by 31 July 2017.

How accessibility helps your business - M-Enabling Summit 2017

"Accessible Technologies and Environments for All” is the motto of the 6th edition of the M-Enabling Summit taking place 13-14 June 2017 in Washington, D.C. This conference has become the yearly meet-and-great of the international accessibility community with ample opportunity for experience exchange, policy updates and practical discussions between end users, disability representatives, senior citizens organisations, industry, accessibility experts, policy makers and increasingly businesses who want to have an inclusive workforce.

For the 2017 event, there will be a full session on "Accessibility for Better Branding”, which will explore why and how major organizations successfully integrate accessibility in their products, services and web site design, and the impact that such strategies have on their business. In preparing for the Summit, we asked Debra Ruh, who will be chairing this session, about her expectations for the Summit in general and her panel in particular.

Debra is the CEO and Founder of Ruh Global Communications, helping clients reduce their compliance and brand risks associated with inclusion and create programs that act as a positive differentiator. Debra is a global leader and has worked with countries, UN agencies, national and multi-national firms all over the world helping then create programs, strategies and processes that fully include persons with disabilities. Her catalyst for starting RGC was her daughter Sara born with Down syndrome and who now contributes to RGC’s success in the role of Inspiration Officer. Debra is also the co-founder of the #AXSChat - a weekly tweet chat around all aspects of accessibility.

Here are Debra’s expectations for the Summit:

Q. In the upcoming M-Enabling Summit 2017, you are chairing a panel on "Enhancing Branding and Market Share with Accessible Communications and Web Sites”. Why do you think this topic is important and what would you like to hear discussed in this panel? 

A. I have been blessed to be part of the M-Enabling Summit for the last 5 years. This year Axel and I were talking about sessions and I suggested a track on branding. Why? Lots of work is being done to assure Access for All and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in the Workforce.  However, many brands still do not talk about their accessibility and inclusion efforts because they do not feel they have made enough progress.

That is a problem for many reasons. Many of the consumers with disabilities or people do not know about the services, products and accessibility options available to them. Plus, the rest of society does not know the stories either so how can they support and embrace brands that are having a social impact without knowing the stories.

When I wrote my book: Uncovering Hidden Human Capital: How Leading Corporations Leverage Multiple Abilities in Their Workforce" Published by G3ict tinyurl.com/hnvzswu – I wanted to explore corporations including and retaining persons with disabilities in their workforce.  My goal was to explore the topic from a global perspective. I invited companies based in the United States to be featured in the book. Many told me no – because they felt they had too much to do. They were also afraid that if I featured them as a Best Practice – (which they were) – that they might be a target of lawsuits because they had not done enough to assure accessibility and inclusion. That made me sad because if we do not reward and applaud efforts to include our community that is a loss for everyone.

The need for corporations to tell their stories has never been more important. I have written my third book (soon to be published) on this topic. Many corporations are making progress on accessibility and inclusion and we need to applaud the efforts. Of course, there is more to do but let’s celebrate the successes which will encourage the corporation to continue their good work. As we celebrate the companies including persons with disabilities in their workforce, customer base and efforts to assure Access For All – their competitors will notice the celebration and be tempted to join the accessibility and disability inclusion efforts.

Q. You are attending the M-Enabling Summit for the 5th time - what kind of progress in accessibility did you see over time and what was the M-Enabling Summit’s contribution to that? 

A: I have seen a lot of progress in the field. I mainly work with corporations and the UN agencies like the ILO. We are seeing progress all over the world.  Of course, we still have so much work to do but progress is being made.  Also the innovation, productivity and inclusion are changing the world for the better for everyone.

The M-Enabling Summit was one of the first conferences that looked at the role the internet, communications and technology plays in inclusion and accessibility by creating a summit around mobile inclusion. The summit is the place where I learn about innovation, best practices and meet global leaders. I believe the M-Enabling Summit is one of the most important places to have global conversations.

Q. What concrete outcome do you hope for in this year’s Summit? 

A. I hope that more corporations join the conversations. Many multi-national firms are making efforts with disability inclusion and accessibility. We want these leaders to join the conversations and share their best practices and lessons learned. We have to understand it is a journey and always a work in progress. We also have to stop along the path and celebrate our achievements both large and small.

Q.  How does your personal story tie in with the M-Enabling Summit?

A. I have a daughter and a son. Our daughter Sara is 30 years old and was born with Trisomy 21 (commonly referred to as Down syndrome). Our son, Kevin is also in the field. We believe that our family represents millions of other families impacted by disabilities. Also as my parents retired from AT&T and aged – they both acquired disabilities.  Disabilities does not mean a person cannot add value to society.  We are all part of the human family and have abilities and disabilities. Let’s celebrate our humanness.


We are looking forward to attending Debra’s panel and also to talk about GARI’s progress in the four end user solutions tracks. Join us in person at the M-Enabling Summit and/or follow the discussions on Twitter #menabling2017.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A history of mobile accessibility - how far have we come in 9 years?

The Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) is a good opportunity each year to take stoke of how much progress we made in promoting and implementing accessibility. In April, the Mobile & Wireless Forum (MWF) published the GARI Annual Report 2016. This report does not only give statistics about use and content of the GARI database, but in this version also tells the story of GARI’s creation, evolution and outlook. And since GARI is the central if not only source of information on mobile accessibility worldwide, this summary of its development gives key insights into the evolution of mobile accessibility as such. 

In 2008, GARI started out as a simple spreadsheet listing accessibility features available in mainstream mobile phones. Since then, the database has grown to provide information on the accessibility of over 1,100 mobile phone models around the world, almost 100 tablet models, over 340 accessibility related apps, and since the end of 2016, over 100 Smart TV models. 

Some key facts: 
  • the GARI database currently provides accessibility information on
    • 110 features for mobile phones
    • 67 features for tablets
    • 57 features for Smart TVs
    • 52 features for Wearables
  • in 2016, the GARI website attracted on average over 16,300 unique visits and almost 330,000 page views per month 
  • in addition, several organisations use the GARI data via xml feed (available for 12 countries) 
  • the majority of visitors to the GARI online portal are coming from North America and Europe (28% and 35%) but the percentage of GARI users coming from Latin America has doubled in 2016 due to an increased focus in the region on mobile accessibility
  • 8 out of the 10 top searched for features in the GARI database relate to hearing and features to support hard-of-hearing users 

GARI’s strength lies in the participation of most of the major mobile phone manufacturers and the high number of devices the database provides accessibility information on. Its success is furthermore supported by the active use of the GARI database through national regulatory authorities, organisations of persons with disabilities, network providers and consumer organisations around the world. 

A further strong point is that GARI follows a bottom-up approach. Every 18-24 months, the MWF organises a feature review in which all accessibility stakeholders are invited to comment on the current list of features in the database, suggest new features and submit suggestions for improvement for the database. In fact, the 4th GARI feature review is under way and will officially be launched by the end of May. 

Lessons learned 

But what lesson do we learn from 9 years of promoting mobile accessibility? While over the years, a good number of accessibility features have become mainstream, information and education of consumers remain two of the biggest challenges to tackle. Still today, many users do not know about the features in their devices that can potentially help them overcome barriers in daily life and we still have older users, hard-of-hearing users, blind users who believe that there is no mobile device for them. 

So on this year’s Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we are happy to join the call for raising awareness about the importance and daily implementation of accessibility, and invite all of you to take out your mobile, check out its accessibility features, and more importantly inform your family and friends about these features whenever they would need a special function to help them use the device. 




More information about the Mobile & Wireless Forum (MWF): http://www.mwfai.org 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Discussing "accessibility & inclusion in business on the web & beyond”

… this is the mission of #AXSchat, a live Twitter chat uniting key influencers in the online accessibility discussion every Tuesday, 8pm UK time, on Twitter. The MWF/GARI was honoured to join the chat as official invitee, to explain about the GARI project, and to tackle the questions raised by the #AXSchat community: 


Q1 @neilmilliken predicts mobile will remain the most important tech for #inclusion in 2017 is this a fair assumption, if so why? #AXSChat

A1: More people than ever have a mobile phone which count among the most accessible product groups today. Furthermore, mobile phones become the hub to access services, other devices etc. This trend will even increase with the Internet of things. (Just heard somebody recently calling the smartphone the remote control to our life). All the more important therefore that mobile phones are accessible and that consumers are educated about the different accessibility features available in devices today. 


Q2 If you buy a car the features don’t change over time. This isn’t true with phones how do you keep on top of #a11y in updates? #AXSchat

A2: In the GARI database you find information on the availability of hardware and software accessibility features available in mobile phones, tablets, apps, Smart TVs and Wearables. Furthermore, we try to provide information on latest updates to the operating systems and peer review videos on GARI’s resource page. 


Q3 How can we make older & novices users aware of how to use the accessibility features in the phones that they already own #AXSchat

A3: Consumer education is crucial: we provide the information about the GARI database and accessible mobile phones for older users to senior organisations. But it is important to understand that seniors are not looking for accessible devices - they just want to have a device that helps them hear and see better (see blog post Senior adults aren’t seeking accessibility - they just need a device that helps them see and hear better, http://blog.mobileaccessibility.info/2016/02/senior-adults-dont-need-accessibility.html).


Q4 How important are accessibility user reviews during the process of buying a new product? And where can people find them? #AXSChat

A4: GARI provides objective information on accessibility features available in mobile phones, tablets, Smart TVs and Wearables. In a second step, to help consumers choose among a number of accessible devices peer review is crucial and often provided by Organisations of Persons with Disabilities who review products for their members. 


Q5 Should new electronics products come with #Accessibility Information for commonly occurring disabilities on the packaging #AXSchat

A5: In most cases, consumers get the packaging only after having purchased the product. It is much more practical to have one central source of information where consumers know that they can find information on the accessibility features of devices. And that is exactly the mission of the GARI database: inform and empower consumers so choose a device that best suits their individual needs. 


Q6 As all the appliances that we use today become connected, what’s being done to guarantee interoperability & #accessibility #AXSchat #IOT

A6: That is a big challenge but our member companies try to ensure Interoperability via their active contribution to the development of international standards. 


The #AXSchat is a wonderful opportunity every week to tap into the knowledge of the accessibility experts community and we are looking forward to following and learning. 

Have a look at the video interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJVd-VBN5zM