iPhone Accessibility

In my quest to create learning tools and user interfaces that are accessible to everyone, I have come in to contact with Sterling Creations. They have a free E online newsletter with interesting and timely articles. Here is one about accessibility issues with the iPhone.

Apple does address some 508 issues HERE but there is more they could do.

iPhones and the Disability Divide

By Edward J. Heaton

August 2007 Column

In all the hype about Apple’s new and revolutionary iPhone, it seems that
one segment of the population has been ignored. As usual, it’s persons with

The most revolutionary feature of the iPhone is supposed to be its user
interface, which consists of a touch screen. A touch screen interface does
not allow persons with limited mobility in their hands, or persons who are
blind, to use the iPhone. Early sales estimates say that in the first
weekend of sales (June 29 to July 2), up to 750,000 units were sold. The
effect of the iPhone is not just limited to Apple products. According to
Fortune Magazine’s David Kirkpatrick, “every other handheld device maker no
doubt will immediately start trying to imitate [the iPhone’s touch screen

If this is true, then PWDs will really be in a hole. The debate on whether
iPhones should or should not be accessible has already started on Apple user
websites. There are two schools of thought. The first is that if you are
blind, why would you buy an iPhone? The second is that one cannot determine
who wants to use the technology.

The iPhone was introduced in January by Steve Jobs. In the six months since
then, I have seen no disabled organization, such as the National Association
of the Blind, or any ADA-related group come up with a position on whether or
not the iPhone should be handicapped accessible. Given the other serious
issues facing the disability community, I can certainly understand the
oversight. However, given the early and probably ongoing success of the
iPhone, I think this will become an issue as more companies attempt to
either license or come up with their own version of the Apple technology.

According to “Disability and the Digital Divide”, a report released in 2006
by RTC Rural, “[t]he most current data (October 2003) show Internet use by
fewer than 30% of those with disabilities over age 15 while more than 60% of
those with no disability used the Internet at
some location.” If people with disabilities are already using the
Internet half as much as people without disabilities, the iPhone will only
continue to swing the pendulum in the wrong direction.

What needs to be done? Organizations, such as National Organization on
Disability, and the American Association of Persons with Disabilities, need
to push for accessibility standards for all devices that will use the iPhone
technology. Currently, in America, there are approximately 30,000 ATMs that
are accessible to people with low vision by the use of a headphone jack.
Perhaps a similar arrangement can be developed for the iPhone. This needs
to be done because of the other feature of the iPhone: that it acts as a
true mobile computer that allows consumers to surf the Web as if they were
at home on their own computer. The digital divide is already wide enough.
We need to ensure that it doesn’t become the digital chasm.

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