The Guardian recently reported on
Basic mobile phones - and now smartphones - side-step the notorious problems of establishing landlines and bring multiple benefits to hundreds of millions of people in
If handled well, the rise of mobiles is a brilliant opportunity to accelerate inclusion into different aspects of life for millions of disabled people on the continent - just as it is anticipated to benefit enormous numbers of non-disabled people living in poverty.
Among other things, mobiles give access to life-saving health information, local market information, money transfer services from urban to rural areas and enable all-important contact with family and community. In contrast, unless mobile phone firms explicitly build disability accessibility into the 'DNA' of their product design and dissemination, disabled people will be further excluded from the move out of poverty that all on the continent desire.
Ensuring that mobile phone technologies are accessible to people of all impairment groups will also fulfil the legal obligations that 37 African counties have made through their ratification of the
Guidelines on how to make mobile phones accessible for different impairment groups have been documented and established. [3,4] However, smartphone accessibility is still evolving.
And it's clear from the lack of accessible design and apps to date that smartphone designers need to be more intentional about ensuring their products can be used by all, according to impairment-specific needs. [5,6] Ensuring all technology development is "'fit-for-purpose"' is crucial. As governments are called to account for how well they are implementing their CRPD obligations, the mobile phone industry will face ever-growing requirements to ensure they comply.
Of course, accessible mobile technologies alone will not achieve the inclusion of disabled people in business, education, health and community life. Other barriers need addressing, such as discriminatory attitudes and prohibitive laws and policies. For example, first-generation mobile phone handsets have been brilliant for deaf people - but only if they are literate and can use text messaging. This opens up big questions about ensuring deaf children are taught to be literate. Many do not make it to the school gates because of the huge discriminatory attitude barriers they face.
Mobile technologies will continue to flood through
 Nirmita Narasimhan and others Making mobile phones and services accessible for persons with disabilities (
 Kate Accessibility on mobile: what do brands and developers need to do? (Future Platforms,
 Achieving independence with smartphone technology (Living Well With a Disability, accessed
Most Popular Stories
- New Hershey's Logo Revealed
- Americans Still Pessimistic Despite Economic Growth
- Obama's Delay on Immigration Creates Uncertainty
- Startups Offer Smartphone Banking Apps
- Mexico's Pemex Forecasts 6.7% Drop in 2014 Crude Production
- Clippers Deal Started With 2 Numbers
- 'Longmire' Cancelled, Looks for New Network
- Echeveste Steps Down, Perez Steps Up at VPE
- Illinois Issues Fracking Rules
- Hip-Hop Takes Up Ferguson Cause