Paul Schroeder

By now you've likely heard that AT&T wants to merge with T-Mobile to become the biggest cell phone provider in the United States. This proposed merger must get approval from a couple of government agencies before it is final, and there will be lots of arguments for and against the marriage of these two big carriers.

But there is one thing that definitely is important for cell phone customers who are blind or visually impaired. AT&T has been a leader in providing consumers with vision loss with comprehensive access to a range of mobile phone handsets, especially smart phones. It led the way in subsidizing and supporting specialized software for people with vision loss that provides access to a comprehensive set of features on a mobile phone, and of course, through its partnership with Apple, AT&T helped to bring to market the iPhone, the first fully accessible smart phone with built in accessibility (made available on all phones at no additional cost). And, AT&T is now working to improve the accessibility of handsets running the popular Android operating system.

To date, T-Mobile has not provided its consumers with vision loss with support for specialized software or with a fully accessible cell phone.

These are the facts that AFB has long made clear to anyone who is interested. So we hope that if this merger with T-Mobile comes to fruition, consumers with vision loss who had been subscribing to T-Mobile will benefit from access to AT&T's accessibility services.

There is one other interesting possible and beneficial outcome from this merger. A combination of AT&T and T-Mobile networks could lead to enhanced access to wireless broadband. For those of us with vision loss who are able to obtain mobile broadband, the benefits in immediate access to comprehensive information and services is truly remarkable.

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