AFB Evaluates Cell Phones for Accessibility
(January 29, 2004) NEW YORK—Cellular phones have become a critical piece of technology—on the job, in case of an emergency, or to keep up with friends or family. But for the ten million people who are blind or visually impaired, cell phones are anything but convenient. To explain the access problems with cell phones, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has recently released the fourth in a series of product evaluations of some of the top mobile phones on the market.
"Over the past year, AFB has been conducting objective, reader-friendly product evaluations on cell phones," said Paul Schroeder, vice president of Policy, Research and Technology of AFB. "These evaluations are not only intended to help blind consumers make informed choices, but also to assist companies in developing access solutions in the wireless service industry."
Experts from AFB have already evaluated and published their findings and recommendations of four top-of-the-line cell phones. In addition, two other mobile phones were evaluated that include software intended to provide people who are blind or visually impaired with greater user-friendly options. (Evaluations are featured in AFB's premier technology publication, AccessWorld®, free-of-charge, at www.afb.org/accessworld.)
Most cell phones rely upon visual displays to relay or communicate information. According to AFB, some of the most desirable accessible cell phone features for blind or visually impaired people are: keys that are easily identifiable by touch; voice output for menu navigations and battery, roaming, and message indicators; voice output for reading contacts listed in the phone book feature; and accessible documentation for instruction manuals, available on the company's website or in braille format.
AFB experts will continue to work with manufacturers to improve cell phone accessibility, and will be evaluating the anticipated new cell phones that are expected to improve wireless access when they hit the market.
The American Foundation for the Blind—the organization to which Helen Keller devoted her life—is a national nonprofit whose mission is to eliminate the inequities faced by the 10 million Americans who are blind or visually impaired. Visit AFB online at www.afb.org.
The American Foundation for the Blind Technology and Employment Center at Huntington, WV, (AFB TECH) forms the hub of AFB's technology initiatives. AFB TECH evaluates assistive technology and provides objective reviews—published in AFB's AccessWorld® magazine—so blind and low vision consumers can make informed purchasing decisions. AFB TECH also works with the most influential technology companies around the world, assisting them in designing mainstream products that can be used by everyone—sighted and visually impaired.
AFB Communications Group