Saturday, February 17, 2018

How does GARI fit into mHealth?

There is a lot of talk about the potential of ICT in healthcare. In a recent symposium on
"Building the European digital health environment" organized by the European Knowledge Tree Group (EKTG) a great many stakeholders (including health care providers, ICT startups, patient representatives, community groups, health care providers and policy makers) came together to discuss how some of the best practice examples successfully employing ICTs in this context can be put into mainstream practice.

The MWF was invited to present GARI and to explain how GARI contributes to raising awareness about mobile accessibility and how it helps consumers identify devices that have features best suited to their needs. This is really where the areas of mHealth and mobile accessibility meet: no matter what kind of digital health service is provided, it will be delivered via some sort of device or digital interface - and these devices or interfaces will need to be accessible and easy to use for patients, elderly users, people with chronic conditions and differing degrees of impairments.

Another common issue we see is the lack of information about existing digital solutions and a hesitance if not fear of using "complicated technology". On one side, we have some elderly people who are convinced that mobile phones are just too complicated. On the other side, we have people who want to continue living independently and the devices greatly assist them to achieve that.

For both user groups, there exist simple and readily available solutions. For those that feel the devices are too complicated there are actually simplified interfaces which present the core functions that are wanted and nothing else. For other users, there are great features for improved call quality, for creating individual hearing profiles and for linking the device directly with a hearing-aid if that is needed. Furthermore, there are now smart watches with fall detection systems, NFC tags that can be attached to objects of daily life and include simple reminders when scanned, remote monitoring that allows caregivers to intervene if needed, SOS alerts amongst a range of other features that can really assist independent living.

So how does GARI fit into mHealth? First of all, GARI can help select devices that are accessible and easy to use for accessing the relevant mHealth services, be it a mobile phone, tablet, Smart TV or Wearable. And secondly, GARI can serve as example in how to raise awareness among concerned user groups and help them, their families and caregivers select the best solution available in the market place.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Milestones in Mobile Accessibility: the Tenth Anniversary of GARI

In 2008, GARI started out as a collection of features listed in a simple spreadsheet. Ten years on, we are looking at a database featuring over 1,500 devices in 5 product groups and 18 languages. GARI continues to serve its original purpose: the need to inform consumers about accessibility solutions currently available in the market place. To this day, we have elderly people thinking that digital devices are just too complicated for them and we still have persons with disabilities walking into phone shops and being told there is no device that would be suitable for them.

This is taking place against a backdrop when the mobile phone has developed into something akin to the universal remote control, a way of accessing a wide range of services and remote controlling other devices. It has also become our constant companion. A companion that we need to be accessible and usable. And many devices indeed are. However, the knowledge about the availability and use of many of the best features is still limited and there remain a lot of people who still need information on accessible devices and support in selecting those that best suit their needs.

While we continue to address those needs, we have come a long way over the last 10 years. So what have we achieved?

  • a freely available online database of accessible devices in 18 languages
  • information on over 100 accessibility features in 1,500+ mobile phones, tablets, Smart TVs and Wearables
  • a list of 400+ accessibility related mobile applications 
  • a de-facto industry standard for accessible devices that helps promote accessibility in all markets 
  • the participation of 19 different manufacturers 
  • presentations and awareness building at 3-4 major conferences per year
  • adoption of the GARI database by 9 government bodies around the world in order to advance mobile accessibility at a national level
  • over half a million page-views and over 50,000 unique visits per month to the GARI website 
  • 4 feature reviews with active participation from many international and national organisations of persons with disabilities, representatives of consumer and senior citizen organisations, accessibility experts and national regulators 

And just in time for our 10 year anniversary, GARI was selected as an innovative ICT practice in accessibility and will be presented at the Zero Project conference in Vienna in February 2018.