Cellphone technology: “people with disabilities are lagging behind”

rogers-fido-iphone-canadaIt’s estimated that Canadians with disabilities spend approximately $25 billion a year on goods and services. Laurie Beachell, national co-ordinator for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities said “The new technology can actually be either the great liberator for people with disabilities … or it can begin to create a whole new set of barriers that we haven’t had to deal with before”.

Over the past several years the technology mainstream has gone to touchscreens, for the disabled this has been what some are saying discrimination. Mr. John Rae states “Manufacturers of technology, manufacturers of household appliances continue to develop and manufacture equipment and technology that we can’t use.”

Harry Lew of the Neil Squire Society wants to “empower” the disabled and he is reaching out to the CRTC to change the regulations to force companies to make more user-friendly products for the disabled.

“Basically (we) were trying to make the case that cellphone companies don’t do a really good job of ensuring that there are products for people with disabilities that meet their needs. So you can’t access email if you’re a person with a mobility impairment right now. You can’t surf the web on a handset because there just aren’t any solutions. That’s the classic case where people with disabilities are lagging behind.”

On each of the carriers website there is a section for Special Needs, Bell has it their homepage, Rogers released the Nokia 6682RVI for the visually impaired, and Telus spokesman Jim Johannsson said “We know that with technology you can allow people with certain disabilities to be incredibly productive and wherever possible we’re making those investments”. They like the other carriers have implemented a service for those with impaired vision that converts your emails from text into an audio format. In addition, they are working on video relay services for its deaf customers.

So it seems like the technology is there and the cellphone companies have made a bit of progress. Johannsson said these systems require national standards and CRTC approval… which takes time.

More here at the Globe