Paul Schroeder, AFB Vice President, Programs and Policy Paul Schroeder, AFB Vice President, Programs and Policy

This week in Las Vegas it's everything wireless at the CTIA Super Mobility conference. CTIA, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, hosts the show and notably also hosts an Accessibility Outreach Initiative Forum as part of the conference. I am pleased to participate in the forum and express appreciation to CTIA for making it possible to attend. I thought I'd share some of the points from the forum on September 7.

AFB has been collecting the views of people with vision loss through a series of technology surveys and I encourage you to have a look and fill them out if you haven't already done so. Of the 131 people with vision loss who responded to the survey on mobile phones, 86% or 113 people indicate they have a smart phone and the vast majority (97 individuals) said they have an Apple phone. Well over half the respondents 61% report using a screen reader to access their phone, while 11% use text enlargement or magnification and 8% report using a braille display.

When asked how their current mobile phones (technology and service) compare to their experience from two years ago, 58 respondents (44%) reported being "much more satisfied” and 26 respondents (20%) reported being "somewhat more satisfied;” only 11 participants (8%) reported being less satisfied now than 2 years ago. Most of the respondents (about two thirds) had obtained their phone within the past two years.

We ask in the survey for individuals to describe features that are most difficult/impossible to use and the most commonly reported feature so far is web browsing cited by around 25 percent.

We also ask about apps, and while so far only 64 people have provided responses, they said that compared with apps used 2 years ago, 20% report being "much more satisfied;” 33% report "somewhat more satisfied”; only 8% of respondents are less satisfied with the apps they use today. By the way, 16 people (25%) reported Facebook as one of their favorite apps.

Check out the full set of surveys where we are also asking about accessibility for computers, television, home phones, and office phones.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently posted a tentative report of findings about the accessibility of communications Technologies for the 2016 Biennial Report required by the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). Among other findings, it notes that people with disabilities are benefiting from accessibility built into operating systems such as Apple's iOS, and Google's Android. However, for individuals looking for an accessible cell phone to just do basic things like make calls and maybe send a text message, the FCC reports that "little, if any, progress has been made since the 2014 CVAA Biennial Report with respect to the number of non-smartphone devices used for telecommunications that are accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.” Unfortunately, the FCC also notes that its "tentative finding is further supported by the percentage of requests for assistance filed by consumers that allege that wireless phones made available to low-income individuals with disabilities by providers that participate in the Commission's Lifeline program either lack certain accessibility features, or are not accessible at all.”

And, I'll also mention the mixed situation with regard to web browsing on Android devices. Google has made incremental improvements to the browsing experience on Android, and the stock configuration of the Chrome browser and the TalkBack screen reader provides a technically accessible web browsing experience. However, significant usability barriers remain including sluggishness, particularly for devices with less capable hardware. And, gesture recognition problems are not fully resolved.

I'll be sending in notes and tweets from the conference so connect up with AFB and you can follow me on Twitter at @PWSAFB.