The iPhone and Accessibility

Apple iPhoneAdmittedly, I have been and always will be an Apple devotee. With that disclaimer aside, during one of my many ventures through the Web looking for interesting web accessibility topics, I came across extensive coverage of the topic of accessibility on Apple’s website.

To cover the highlights briefly, Apple claims the iPhone has these accessibility features:

For the Visually Impaired:

  • Physical buttons for commands such as sleep, ringer and home
  • Zoom ability for viewing content
  • Font size increasing for Mail
  • Alert and ringtone customization based on audio, visual or vibration

For the Hearing Impaired:

  • Support for open and closed captioning, as well as subtitles
  • Using Safari, ability to use web-based instant messaging services such as Meebo
  • SMS texting
  • Headset options including hearing-aid induction ear loop
  • Visual Voicemail feature
  • TTY support (with a separate iPhone TTY Adapter)

They similarly point out some of these features — like the tactile buttons, voice dialing, and assignable ringtones — as being accessible to those with physical disabilities as well.

Furthermore, AT&T has a Text Accessibility Plan for iPhone, which offers unlimited messaging and data usage and pay-per-use voice and Visual Voicemail.

There are conflicting views, not surprisingly, on how successful Apple’s accessibility efforts with the iPhone are. Some laud Apple and AT&T for considering those with disabilities and providing growing options. Others feel that these features aren’t enough.

For example, Touchscreens, from the inability to feel buttons to supplying multiple levels of menuing, provide significant problems for those unable to see. See TechNewsWorld article “Is Technology Accessibility the New Green?.”

Again, like website accessibility, it is not always practical and feasible to make something for absolute everybody? The challenge is continuing to push the technology envelope in making cool and useful new innovations, while doing as much as possible to enable those with disabilities to enjoy the experience as well.

Does the iPhone have further to go? The answer seems to be yes, but I would say that Apple at least appears to take the subject of accessibility seriously, and all signs point to them doing better with future releases.

A sampling of differing viewpoints in the blogging world:

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