Paris, 26 May 2010
There are 5.5 million people with disabilities in France, which affects one out of every five families. Mobile telephony has become one of the major means of enabling the autonomy and freedom of people with disabilities. Thanks in particular to the mobile Internet and a location-based system, improvements have been brought to disabled people’s ability to access information, to move and interact with friends and family, and to their safety. A simple text message will allow someone who is deaf and speech impaired to report an unusual situation or simply to communicate with people in their entourage on a daily basis.
Operators have made commitments to support developments such as these over the long term, through a charter signed back in 2005. Mobile telephony manufacturers joined this citizen-based initiative in late 2007, which marked a real step forward in the ability to develop handsets that are tailored as well as possible to the needs of each disability. In a parallel move, the Secretary of State for Forward Planning and the Development of the Digital Economy became involved in creating dedicated services for the disabled via the first e-government portal for mobile phones in Europe, Proxima mobile. Certain dedicated applications for people with disabilities are now poised to launch.
In the presence of Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, Secretary of State for Forward Planning and the Development of the Digital Economy, and of representative associations, Jean-Philippe Alosi, Cabinet advisor to Nadine Morano, Denis Rapone, Member of the Executive Board of ARCEP (Electronic Communications and Postal Regulatory Authority), Jean-Marie Culpin, President of AFOM (French Association of Mobile Operators), Jean-Marie Danjou, Managing Director of AFOM and Bernard Benhamou, Advisor on Internet usage, presented an account today of the concrete actions carried out in 2009 and laid out the development paths for 2010.
Five years of strong commitments to people with disabilities.
2005: Establishment of a list of criteria common to all operators that made it possible to produce a classification table for the mobile handsets best suited to people with disabilities. This list was further refined in 2007.
Supply of accessories for mobile handsets (e.g. Supertooth hands-free kits for cars), a screen reader (Mobile Speak) that now provides high quality voice rendering, in both a male and female version, a screen reader application that can be accessed directly from the memory card, which makes the process much easier for customers. 4,000 copies of the screen reader software were downloaded in 2009. One operator recently expanded its line of compatible handsets to include touch-screen phones.
2006: Organisation of the first product tester panels in disability simulations to assess the usability of the phones for each type of disability. These panels are now held annually.
2008: First international database opened: GARI (1), the fruit of close collaboration between mobile phone manufacturers (via the MMF/Mobile Manufacturers Forum) and operators. Inventory of the mobile handsets that are best suited to people with disabilities, with details on the size of the screen, the keypad, relief, whether it has a slide, flip or clamshell, etc. mechanism (for possible problems of dexterity)… or a total 51 European models listed online.
2009: Operators propose a line of products (8 to 15 handsets per operator) and services with an ever increasing array of features, along with their support for projects devoted to the disabled via the Proxima Mobile portal.
To give an example: since 2009, on certain days of the week, two customer service centres have been providing access to people who are deaf or speech impaired. Access to a customer service centre online, providing real-time dialogue capabilities via text and sign language. Home sales offer available since April 2009. As of May 2010, there were 193 approved retail outlets that had expert sales personnel trained to serve people with disabilities. And the steady rollout of applications devoted to the disabled on Proxima Mobile also constitutes a remarkable step forward: the "Justbip" project will allow people with motor disabilities to be connected immediately to services (notably staff at service stations), while the "Jaccede" (I access) project will provide a list of the public places that are accessible to people with reduced mobility.
As part of the Charter’s commitment to ongoing improvements, AFOM has formed a partnership with the Institut Telecom sud Paris to work on increasing student awareness every year through the theme of "Disabilities: a source of innovation for engineers," starting in September 2010. Operators are also working on steadily improving the support they give to the disabled. Starting in July 2010, a new operator will be offering customer support via video relay, provided by deaf support staff who will handle requests from people who are deaf or hearing impaired.
(1) Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative: www.mobileaccessibility.info
REMINDER OF OPERATOR COMMITMENTS, 2009 YEAR-END STATUS REPORT AND OUTLOOK FOR 2010.
Commitment 1: To offer mobile telephones adapted to people with disabilities
In 2009, operators continued to devote efforts to developing phones that were better tailored to the different disabilities, by:
- hosting new test panels to be able to provide a regularly updated list of mobile handsets that are adapted to each disability,
- integrating new development criteria whose results were presented and approved by the associations representing people with disabilities in mid-2009.
o One operator added touch-screen phones and phones based on new operating systems to its line of compatible handsets.
- Operators are now offering a line of 8 to 15 phones, based on the selection provided by manufacturers.
Commitment 2: To develop a service offering geared to enabling the autonomy of people with disabilities. After having introduced dedicated pricing schemes and free services in 2006, operators went one step further in 2009 with new dedicated offers that are being rolled out on a regular basis on operators’ websites, along with more advanced services such as:
- handsets with improved screen reader software.
o One operator has introduced new screen reader software that can be accessed directly from the memory card, making for an easier user experience. Customers confirm their request to install the software when in the shop, and the application installs itself on their handset. Customers leave the shop with a mobile that is ready to use.
o Exponential increase in the use of screen reader and character enlargement software in 2008/2009 (4,000 software downloads in 2009).
- Services offering more detailed and more directly accessible information (notably in sign language).
- Production and distribution of more than 22,650 invoices adapted to the needs of the disabled.
- In 2009, two customer service centres were accessible to the hearing impaired, the deaf and the speech impaired.
- One operator launched an online support and video platform geared to helping people with disabilities to use their phone on their own.
Commitment 3: To inform the public of offers geared to people with disabilities
In 2008, the associations had made a particular request for better support for people with disabilities. Communication efforts were stepped up in 2009, which resulted in:
- the incorporation of pictograms into the communication and marketing tools used, making it easier to recognize handset features and to choose the most suitable one.
- 193 approved retail outlets at the end of 2009. One operator has launched a fully dedicated distribution network.
- the development of signage tools and means of accessing telephony: magnetic loops (a tool that helps improve communication), fixed and mobile ramps, visual markers and signage, elevators, call bells…
Better quality of customer response:
- Creation by one operator of a dedicated "green" (toll-free) number, allowing people with disabilities to obtain information and order products and services adapted to their needs.
Ongoing efforts to achieve greater accessibility:
o Implementation of website audits
o Gradual compliance with W3C standards
* One operator’s websites have achieved an average 70% AA compliance rating
o Creation of a reading comfort level bar that allows the visually impaired to select their profile (character size, font, etc.)…
FOCUS: MVNOs and accessibility
In late 2008, the associations had submitted a specific request for increasing MVNOs’ awareness of accessibility issues. In 2009, mobile virtual network operators presented a customised service offering, which includes:
o a webpage dedicated to the disabled, which can be accessed from the home page, allowing users to view a selection of adapted handsets;
o product classification according to criteria defined by the AFOM charter and/or MVNOs’ creation of a rating model for the products listed, providing their own star rating system that is used on their website as well.
- I.E. a selection of 6 to 15 telephones for each type of disability.
* Dedicated initiatives from MVNOs:
o Support for configuring a phone, as part of a special service call, assisted by an instructional video for the visually or hearing impaired;
o Home sales call option (since April 2009);
o Home service call to replace a mobile.
Commitment 4: To make ongoing improvements
Since 2005, the Charter signatories have been committed to taking advantage of technological developments to improve the lives of people with disabilities, which has included:
- the development of contactless technology for payment and machine-to-machine applications, notably in the healthcare sector;
- operators training their office and sales staff (in-house awareness training and hiring of people with disabilities) and renewal of agreements concerning the hiring and insertion in the workplace of people with disabilities.
- Expansion of the commitment to ongoing development to the European level:
o AFOM presented the Charter and operators’ commitments to the Information Society and Media DG (October 2009);
o In contact with the "ICT for inclusion" Unit, for monitoring the work being performed and promoting actions in France, such as best practices;
o One of the operators is involved in European expert working groups on Accessibility.
Once again this year, operators met with associations and public authorities on a regular basis to continue to improve their coverage of the needs of people with disabilities, and particularly those of the deaf and hearing impaired. Operators also support the Proxima mobile initiative rolled out by public authorities.
Main areas of focus for 2010
- Continue the work being done in tandem with handset manufacturers:
o Increase handset manufacturers’ awareness of the issues tied to touchscreen phones, which offer an increasingly large selection but are poorly suited to people with disabilities;
o MMF commitment to ongoing work on the GARI database.
- Continuing to perfect website accessibility
- Monitoring work being done at the European level
- Efforts to incorporate accessibility into the curriculum at universities and schools of research and engineering:
o In accordance with the conclusion of the European workshop on 23 March 2009, calling for educational initiatives, AFOM is currently in discussions for the creation of a partnership with the Institut Telecom Sud Paris. The goal would be to create a module for increasing student awareness of the theme of "Disabilities: a source of innovation for engineers," by having an AFOM spokesperson present the Charter and its annual scorecard.