Global Accessibility Awareness Day is on 19 May and its goal is to raise the profile and topic of web, software, mobile and device accessibility. With that in mind, it inspired me to do a little research and comparison between the two ‘BIG’ names in mobile technology at the moment.
Research undertaken by Citizens Online in 2015 showed that disabled people are more likely than average to browse using a smartphone, rather than a laptop or desktop. According to Ofcom (2015), Smartphones have overtaken laptops as UK internet users’ number one device; we’re spending at least two hours online on our smartphones every day; twice as long as laptops and PCs.
What are manufacturers actually doing to make mobiles more accessible?
Let’s look at the two market leaders, Samsung and Apple, who have market shares of 21.4% and 13.9% respectively. Both manufacturers provide mobile accessibility functions as standard as part of their phone operating systems, Apple runs on iOS and Samsung on Google’s Android OS.
Generally speaking, both iOS and Android’s accessibility functions tend to support the following impairments:
Both phones have built-in screen reading technology, font size adjustment, color adjustments (Samsung has more options than Apple), inverted colors, and magnification of screen elements e.g. buttons and voice commands.
Once again both manufacturers have enabled hearing aid compatibility thanks to Bluetooth technology, flash notifications, mono audio, and phone noise cancellation. Yet again Samsung comes up trumps with additional features such as:
Sound Balance – for users with headphones and perhaps one ear hearing better than another the volume in each ear can be adjusted individually.
Vibration Patterns – For users with severe or total hearing loss users are able to create custom vibration patterns in place of ringtones across all phone contacts.
Interaction accessibility is pretty uniform between the two manufacturers with assistive touch, adjustable click speed and delay settings.
When I began researching this article I was convinced that Apple would come out on top in the accessibility stakes, but it appears from research alone, that Samsung (and not just the Android platform) have expanded their mobile accessibility to cover more options.
The ability to really customize your phone to your requirements removes the barriers facing disabled users.
A higher level of customization can only be a good thing for disabled people looking to purchase a smartphone and it puts a challenge out there to other manufacturers to step up their offerings too.
The platform and device have to be designed with accessibility in mind so that app developers can confidently include accessibility software to make the user experience even better.
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