Thursday, May 01, 2008

The iPhone now has some accessibility...sort of

Well, the iPhone is coming along in providing accessibility to customers with disabilities.

Maybe that should actually read that AT&T, the exclusive provider of voice and data plans for the popular Apple product, has finally made a jump to address some specific
accessibility concerns on the iPhone.

While the news article linked above is an umbrella announcement about accessibility, what it offers is more specifically AT&T providing a plan for internet and messaging for iPhone customers who are "deaf, hard of hearing, have a speech disability and/or hearing loss."

This really is great news for this group of customers and I applaud AT&T for doing the right thing. After all, why should customers have to pay for a voice plan that is of limited use or value to them?

The text Accessibility Plan for iPhone
is a $40 a month flat-rate feature and will allow customers who have a qualifying disability to have unlimited access to web browsing, email, and text messaging.

But didn’t AT&T promise a plan like this some time ago, like, um, back in December? I suppose almost six months late is better than never.

It appears that AT&T used that announcement to demonstrate their sincerity in making the iPhone accessible to even more customers with disabilities. That announcement also included information about the use of a mobile magnifier to help people with limited vision see their screens. This would be good news, if true, and another great step forward in providing accessibility.

But, I have to ask what magnifier program that might be? Is this the same Mobile Magnifier by Code Factory that AT&T has been selling for use on phones running the Windows Mobile or Symbian operating systems? Is that same application now Apple compatible?

Finally, the article also said that an option will also be for the Mobile Speak screen reader (also manufactured by Code Factory) to announce the menu options. This one has me scratching my head. Unless there is some voice command aspect, how will a person who can not touch the correct spot on the touch screen make the Mobile Speak software work? Unless there has been some change in the physical build of the iPhone, there are no buttons on it and the sole input is via the touch screen, which, without modification, would make navigation by the blind completely impossible.

And, I have to ask again, can the Mobile Speak program now run on the Apple operating system?

Maybe I just missed the press release announcing Code Factory products now working across the competing Windows and Apple operating systems.
Or maybe not.
Check out the official Code Factory list of supported products.

Good work on getting some accessibility options rolling, AT&T, but I think maybe there’s a hole in that umbrella.

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