Christine Caroline Mason was given a smartphone on Christmas Day 2015, her 18th birthday. Once she started using the smartphone, she became obsessed with it. She uses every app it offers: camera, video, calendar, clock, notes, music and to access the Internet She uses it to take notes, to stay in touch with her parents and siblings. She has ues it to make reservations at restaurants to buy movie tickets, to pay bills to make travel arrangements and write and send e-mails. She has used it to watch movies and TV shows. Mason says, “My smartphone has given me freedom and independence that I have always craved.”
Mason has a hearing impairment and speech impairment.
In the 1990s shortly after President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act the smartphone industry took off like a space shuttle rocket.
Beyond providing individuals with disabilities greater protections, experts say the Americans with Disabilities Act has helped shape mobile cell phone industry emergence of mobile assistive technologies. In fact, when the ADA became law more than 25 years ago, mobile phones were still largely a novelty item and certainly not as ubiquitous as they are today. But fast forward two-plus decades and these devices are not only equipped with a slew of features, but also assist and provide greater independence to the disabled as they go about their day. Here’s a look at how smartphones have evolved to help provide greater resources to people with disabilities.
Voice-activated systems like Google Home and Amazon Echo are popular among people with disabilities. They like the enhanced voice command technology that can help them navigate to and from just about anywhere. For example, the ease of simply speaking commands to get directions to a nearby business or doctor’s office is just one way to receive information within mere seconds — without the need to punch in information on a keypad.
The vision accessibility features on the Samsung Galaxy S7 also use voice command technology to make the user experience that much better for the vision-impaired. In particular, the smartphone relies on its physical features (the camera light), along with audio detection and vibration alerts, in order for users to never miss a message, alert or alarm.
Of course, it’s not always possible for the disabled to determine who’s calling them without the assistance of haptic technology. But by recreating the sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations or motions to the user, using these technological wonders can then become an essential tool to carry out everyday tasks.
People experiencing paralysis or other mobility issues can often still get around with some assistance, but don’t always have the independence and autonomy they desire. Of course, smartphones featuring voice command technology can help in this arena. Still, carrying out essential tactile functions can pose issues for those who may not be able to physically hold them. That’s where devices like the Sesame smartphone can provide enormous benefits.
The world’s first completely touch-free smartphone, designed by and for people with disabilities, features a camera that can track users’ head movements to carry out essential, everyday functions and tasks. Additionally, the smartphone’s on-screen cursor that’s controlled by the user’s head movements recognizes even the most minimal of movements, allowing disabled users to activate apps, voice mail and other functions without actually touching it.
But tools that provided convenience weren’t always around. Before smartphones came equipped with accessibility options, people with disabilities relied on multiple — and oftentimes expensive — devices to go about their day. A separate GPS device, voice-activated note taker, bar scanner and other devices were often required to carry out essential daily living tasks.
Today smartphones come equipped with all the necessary features for the vision-, hearing- and mobility-impaired, providing them with greater independence, while reducing the need to splurge on other expensive, third-party gadgets.
Streamlining our day-to-day tasks and routines can allow us to go about our day with greater ease. Of course, people with disabilities don’t always have that option. But those who do need an extra helping hand can turn to tools like iPrompts, which provides visual-prompting tools to help users transition between activities and focus on tasks.