CTIA Redesigns Website to Help the Disabled Shop for Wireless Access

CTIA has launched a redesign of its AccessWireless.org site to help people with disabilities shop for wireless devices.

CTIA has redesigned its AccessWireless.org Website to help people with disabilities as well as seniors and their families choose wireless devices.

On the site, MMF (The Mobile Manufacturer Forum), a trade association for mobile phone manufacturers, has integrated its GARI (Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative) database into the Find a Phone section to allow consumers to compare phones' accessibility features.

"The GARI project was designed to address a simple need to help people find cell phones with the sort of features that will make communicating easier either for themselves or for those they care about," Michael Milligan, MMF secretary general, said in a statement. "Through our partnership with CTIA, we can now expand awareness of the project and assist more people to benefit from it."

CTIA announced the redesign of AccessWireless.org on March 23.

The site incorporates some accessibility features for people with vision challenges, including text zoom settings up to 200 percent and various text and background colors.

"The reason why we created AccessWireless is we want to make sure everyone has access to wireless products and services, particularly those with disabilities," K. Dane Snowden, vice president of external and state affairs for CTIA, told eWEEK.

"With over 630 wireless devices in this country, we want to make sure that someone with cognitive visual or hearing disability can go through the site and figure out what types of phones would fit my particular needs," Snowden said.

The FCC provided input for the Website along with advocacy groups such as the American Foundation for the Blind and HLAA (Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA).

"With wireless such a major part of our lives today, the newly designed CTIA Website is a valuable resource for people to find accessible devices they can use depending on their needs," Brenda Battat, HLAA executive director, said in a statement. "HLAA will certainly recommend CTIA's Website to consumers looking for mobile devices that will work with their hearing aids and cochlear implants."

The site is compatible with all screen readers that meet the standard set by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), according to Snowden. "A screen reader reads our site, and we had it tested to meet all of the standards to ensure that anybody with a disability, be it blind or deaf, can use the site easily," he said.

Snowden notes that people with disabilities can use ordinary smartphones these days with all of the apps available to them, making some secondary devices for people with disabilities obsolete. "With the proliferation of apps, particularly targeted to consumers with disabilities, all of those secondary machines are no longer needed. They can use an app all on one device," Snowden said.

One iPhone app called LookTel Money Reader allows the visually impaired to count money by pointing the iPhone's camera at the bill.

In addition, the proliferation of text messaging and instant messaging has eased communication for the hearing impaired, Snowden noted. "You see deaf kids now carrying on full conversations with a hearing child because now they have a way to bridge that communication gap," he said.