ATU234 – GARI and Mobile Device Accessibility BuzzClip for the Blind Charlie

first_imgPodcast: Play in new window | DownloadYour weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.Show Notes:GARI Accessible Mobile Phones and Tablets with Sabine Lobnig | www.GARI.infoThe importance of implementing assistive technology programs BuzzClip: Wearable Ultrasound for the Blind Charlie Brown Thanksgiving:——————————Listen 24/7 at www.AssistiveTechnologyRadio.comIf you have an AT question, leave us a voice mail at: 317-721-7124 or email [email protected] out our web site: https://www.eastersealstech.comFollow us on Twitter: @INDATAprojectLike us on Facebook:——-transcript follows ——WADE WINGLER: Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.Welcome to episode number 234 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on November 20, 2015.Today I speak with Sabine Lobnig who is the Deputy Director of Communications and Regulations at GARI. They are all about accessible smartphones and tablets. And a thing called BuzzClip which helps folks who are blind to detect objects that are more eye level; and also an app about Thanksgiving from BridgingApps.We hope you’ll check out our website at, drop us a note on Twitter @INDATA Project, or give us some feedback on our listener line at 317-721-7124.***Brian Norton is the director of assistive technology here at Easter Seals Crossroads and also the host of one of our newer and most rapidly becoming popular shows, ATFAQ, Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions. Brian has no idea why I grabbed him and stuck him in the studio here for a second. Brian, how are you?BRIAN NORTON: I’m doing well. How are you?WADE WINGLER: Good. I just wanted to let the Assistive Technology Update audience know a little bit about what’s going on with ATFAQ. We’ve been getting lots of questions. We’ve been making up some answers and trying to research a few. We got a few cool, interesting things happening that are special this time of year. Tell everybody what’s going on with ATFAQ these days.BRIAN NORTON: We just released episode 18. I can’t believe we’ve done that many already. We release it twice a month. We are into our ninth month now. We just recently paired up with AT Update to do a holiday show, super excited about that. We are always on the lookout for questions that people have about assistive technology and would love for folks to be able to submit those to us. If you want to submit them to us, you can always reach out to us on our listener line. That’s 317-721-7124. You can send us a tweet with the hashtag #ATFAQ. Or you can send us an email at WINGLER: Brian, that’s pretty impressive. U got the numbers memorized, the email address memorized. You know how to get those questions flowing in now.BRIAN NORTON: We’re looking forward to it. We have lots of listeners. We really love people to call the listener line. If there’s any way that we would love for people to submit it, it’s through our listener line. That allows us to be able to put your voice on the show and make you famous.WADE WINGLER: And we are getting more people who are doing that, and a few who aren’t even just asking questions. Sometimes they are upstaging is a little bit.BRIAN NORTON: We’re not just looking for questions. If you have feedback, if you listen to our show and have feedback or maybe other suggestions that we might want to include, we include those as well. Definitely leave us a voicemail if you have a suggestion or other kinds of feedback information. We love to play that as well. We want to get good information out to our listeners and make sure that we are giving as much information as I can.WADE WINGLER: It’s a special time a year. Brian mentioned that ATFAQ version 19, which is coming up here soon, will be our holiday show. The next two episodes of assistive technology update will represent our fifth annual assistive technology update holiday gift giving guide, where we sit down with Brian and his group and Nikol Prieto who’s been doing this with me for five years now, and we talk about all kinds of cool holiday gift that work well with folks with disabilities. Two weeks of Assistive Technology Update. We’ll break from our firm and do that. And then episode number 19 of ATFAQ will have information as well. It’s a fun time of year. We are sharing all kinds of great information. Brian, thanks for coming in and letting me without much warning stick a mic in front of your face.BRIAN NORTON: No problem. I appreciate it.***WADE WINGLER: I love it when assistive technology hits the mainstream. Not long ago, it was World Usability Day, and Nuance, the makers of Dragon NaturallySpeaking and other kinds of products, did an interesting article about the importance of assisting technology programs. They spoke with Kevin Berner who is a clinical supervisor for the assistive technology program at our sister agency Easter Seals Massachusetts, and it was a pretty interesting interview. They talked about the importance of why our assistive technology assessment initiatives need to be in place for folks with disabilities; what kind of considerations are factored into an assistive technology assessment; the importance of involving the school or workplace; and continuing conversation throughout the implementation process. I’m pretty proud of Kevin. He even talked about the HAAT model, the Human Activity Assistive Technology and Context model, that’s described in the famous Cook and Hussey book about assistive technology. It is a nice well-rounded piece talking about the importance of assistive rheology evaluations. I love it when I see those kinds of things in the mainstream because is it means that the world outside of our industry is paying attention to that kind of stuff. I’m going to pop a link in the show notes over to Nuance’s blog where you can read more about the importance of assistive technology programs.***Over the years, I’ve seen a whole lot of different devices that are designed to help people who are blind or visually impaired more efficiently, safely, quickly navigate the world around them. There’s a thing that’s hit some of my social media feeds recently called BuzzClip. BuzzClip is currently an Indiegogo campaign and as of the time of this recording has got a few days left. If you’re hearing this on the day of release, you’re probably going to have one or two days to participate if that’s something you’re interested in.Here’s the thing about BuzzClip. It’s a device that clips onto your shirt or clothing, and it detects items that are high up in your path of travel. Obviously a white cane is going to help you navigate the ground and holes and things that are done lower, but things that are dangling in your path above like tree branches and other kinds of things are sometimes issues for folks who use a cane to navigate. This thing clips onto your shirt. It has a rechargeable battery that lasts over 10 hours. What it does is basically monitors the area in front of you, either in the near mode so up to a meter away, or far mode up to two meters away. The thing buzzes, vibrates, gives you haptic feedback when you’re getting ready to run into something or there’s an object in your path. It looks like a pretty well thought out and designed thing. There’s a video that will talk about some of the different things they can do and how it works. In fact, here’s a quick clip from the video.>>SPEAKER: I’m Ryland Vroom. I’m six feet five inches tall. I absolutely love the BuzzClip because the cane does not cover head objects. For me, the head objects are quite a lot like low doorframes, trees hanging on the sidewalk, especially when it’s rained, some low street signs if you go up into North York. It’s really bad. The BuzzClip has actually saved had a lot of pounding.WADE WINGLER: And so it seems pretty cool to me. Although we don’t endorse products on here, I do find some of them fascinating. This certainly falls into that category. I’m going to pop a link in the show notes over to the Indiegogo campaign where you can learn more about BuzzClip. They call it the wearable ultrasound for the blind. Check our show notes.***Each week, one of our partners is what is happening in the ever-changing world of apps, so here’s an App Worth Mentioning.AMY BARRY: This is Amy Barry with BridgingApps, and this is an App Worth Mentioning. Today’s app is called A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving: A Peanut’s Classic Storybook for All Ages. This app is a fun e-book app with hundreds of touchable animations, illustrations, and graphics. The curriculum-aligned e-book contains the original dialogue, sound effects, and music from the 1973 classic that everyone loves. Follow Charlie Brown and the Peanut gang as they discover the meaning of things giving.A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is a delightfully themed app to be enjoyed by users of all ages and abilities. The interface is super easy to use and begins with a tutorial that details how to navigate the app. It has three reading notes: read to me, read myself, and autoplay. We found the autoplay mode to be a great feature for early learners to read the book independently. Our students and their families love the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving app. They love the storyline. They really enjoyed tapping on the pop-up tabs. The app graphics are colorful, high quality, and very engaging. Of course, the characters are fun and cute, and they can even be manipulated on the screen. Each page has a hidden collectible weave which the users were all determined to find when they played it.A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving app is a great educational value and is a wonderful interactive e-book to add into your holiday collection. BridgingApps highly recommends it. The app is $5.99 at the iTunes and Google play stores and is compatible with iOS devices and Android devices. For more information on this app and others like it, visit***WADE WINGLER: We’ve talked about this a number of times on the show: we really do live in a world where mobile devices are ubiquitous. They are everywhere. I have one in front of me, on my desk in the studio, I have another one in my pocket right now that may or may not buzz while I record this interview. I think all of us deal with mobile devices on a pretty regular basis. Because we are a show about assistive technology and accessibility, I’m interested in the accessibility of those devices. I know that a lot of my listeners are as well. Because of that, we’ve invited the folks from GARI to come on. I have Sabine Lubnig talking to me from Vienna right now to talk with us a little bit about what they are doing when it comes to accessibility and mobile devices. First and foremost, Sabine, thank you for being on our show.SABINE LOBNIG: Thinks, Wade. It’s a pleasure to participate in the podcast that we listen to regularly I have to add.WADE WINGLER: I love it when folks listen to the show in general, but especially when some of our listeners end up on the show as guests. It’s always kind of exciting. Sabine, tell me a little bit about your background and how you became interested in accessibility.SABINE LOBNIG: I’m actually a translator by vocation. I was always fascinated by different forms of communication, and in particular by sign language and braille. After my studies, I worked in communications and public affairs, but I always continued with sign language and braille. Of course, becoming friends with deaf and blind people, entering into this community, accessibility becomes a topic of interest right away. So I was extremely happy when I joined the MMF, the Mobile Manufacturers Forum, to see that they were engaged in mobile accessibility and actually had a whole project around it to promote it, which is the GARI project , which now I’m happy to work on.WADE WINGLER: Sabine, you’re the deputy director of communications and regulations for the Mobile Manufacturers Forum in the GARI project, which is Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative. Can you tell us a little bit about your role there? What does GARI do in general?SABINE LOBNIG: This whole name of GARI is a mouthful. We usually just call it GARI because it’s a lot easier. My role in GARI — maybe I’ll just quickly explain what GARI is actually.WADE WINGLER: Sure.SABINE LOBNIG: GARI is, in essence, an online database for accessible mobile phones, accessible talents, and accessibility-related apps. It’s a project that was created by the mobile manufacturers forum, again in short the MMF. All our names are very long so we stick to the acronyms. The MMF is the international association of the mobile manufacturers and network providers. Our members are big names in the mobile phone sector like Alcatel OneTouch, Apple, Sony, Microsoft, Nokia, the big brands. They all have put their efforts together to create this database. The goal is to bring the information about hardware solutions to the consumers, be it persons with disabilities, senior citizens, people that have particular access needs, the families, the caretakers, and every consumer that is looking for an accessible device. Our whole motivation with the GARI project is to help them find the device that has the function that they are looking for.The beauty of this product is that GARI is a completely free, accessible database on the web, so everyone that goes to the can access the database freely in 16 different languages and can just look for a device that would fulfill their need. It sounds very theoretical, but say you are a person with a vision impairment, and you are looking for a device that should absolutely have a screen reader. So you can go to the GARI database, and the homepage you see, the first sentence is what are you looking for. You can choose whether you’re looking for mobile phone, a tablet, or an app. You enter through this doorway, so to speak, and then you can just click on the function screen reader and the database will give you all — very specific search. If you are a senior person, you say I just want to have a device that helps me with my hearing impairment. You can look for devices that have particular functions for that, and the database will give you a whole range of devices from different manufacturers where you can look up which kind of accessibility features are already in the mainstream device, so that when you go to the shop and buy the device, they are already in there.WADE WINGLER: I’ve looked at the website, and there’s a ton of great information there. I want to back up just a little bit and see — I think I may be know, and a lot of our listeners know why this is important, but can you talk a little bit about why we should really care about mobile devices? Why did these major manufacturers of these devices become interested in supporting this kind of initiative?SABINE LOBNIG: Why is mobile accessibility important? I think it’s very easy to answer these days because we do have concrete data. For example, the WHO, the World Health Organization, say that currently there is an estimated 1 billion people in the world that are directly affected from a disability. That is one out of five people, or one out of seven people, amongst us that live with a disability or are going to be affected by a disability. On the other hand, we also have market data. For example, the consumer segment of persons with disabilities, I think that’s where the US was estimated 1 trillion dollars annually. That’s a huge market. Of course there is a business argument for getting interested in mobile accessibility. And then we have an aging population that also is becoming more and more reliant on mobile communications and on being accessible. That is just for the figures.Why did our manufacturers create the GARI database? That actually is because already back in 2010, the manufacturers noticed that people, the interest groups were asking for accessibility features that actually were already there. They were in the devices, but the consumers didn’t know about them. So somewhere along the line, from the manufacture to the consumer, information got lost, which is really a pity because sometimes you have a device in your pocket which could help you tremendously and you don’t know about it. So the main idea of the GARI database in the first place was to really create this information Gateway where people can learn about what is accessible in the marketplace and also what they already have in their own device. If you are curious yourself, you can go to GARI and type in the model name of your mobile phone, and if it is entered into the database, then the database will read all the accessibility information on your own device. Maybe for those who are curious about accessibility features on their own device could be an interesting experiment.WADE WINGLER: How are people finding out about the GARI device? Obviously we are going to be promoting it, but what are some outreach activities that you are doing so that folks do find this valuable information?SABINE LOBNIG: We do work directly with a lot of international organizations of persons with disabilities. In Europe, there would be the European disability forum. In the US, we worked with the national Federation of the blind. We work with such organizations in all the world regions to try to get information to them. If they are happy with GARI, they can push the information to their own members. Of course not every person with a disability is a member of such an organization, so a very important gateway are also network carriers. In the US, I believe it’s the likes of Verizon and AT&T, all those network carriers that provide that telecommunications services. We provide the GARI database free to them. They can use it as custom information tool, and we encourage them to use the GARI database if they are approached by their customers who are looking for an accessible device. If I want a device that is accessible to me as a blind person, my first way would be to go to the shop of my network provider and to ask them for such a device. That’s why the network carriers are very important for us to promote GARI.On the other hand, we also work with lots of government agencies with regulators. Several of them around the world have integrated GARI directly into their website as a service to their citizens, also to spread the word about mobile accessibility solutions, and also because mobile accessibility is becoming a topic in several countries around the world. It is gathering attention and focus. In the US, for example, the FCC’s using GARI on their clearinghouse website. We just heard that the Mexican regulator is going to implement GARI, and in Europe and the Asian countries we also have some nice examples. That is one way of promoting GARI with the help of partnerships.On the other hand, we are very active on social media, on Twitter, and Facebook, where we tweet about new devices added to GARI. We spread the information about development, technological development in the field. In general, we also engage in the discussions. We ask where the problems are. We ask what people are worrying about in mobile telecommunications. We really try to get the conversation going. GARI as such is not set in stone. It’s really a collaborative undertaking. For example, the way we developed the accessibility features that are listed GARI in the first place was to work together with organizations of persons with disabilities and with accessibility experts, and of course the technicians from our members, sit together and come up with a list of relevant accessibility features. That was back in 2010. The list since then has been evolving because every 18 months we make a stakeholder review, which means we submit the full list of accessibility features again to the organizations of persons with disabilities, to the experts, to industry, and ask them if the features are still relevant, if they need to be updated, if there are new features that should be included. So we really try to ensure that while the technology is moving very fast in these areas, that GARI is moving along with the technology, to be up-to-date in terms of mobile accessibility.WADE WINGLER: It seems that first of all you guys are very busy to make that happen. While you were talking, I went to the GARI website and I plugged in my mobile device. I’m using iPhone 6 Plus right now, which is been around for just about a year. I have got to stay, I’m astonished at the amount of information that is here about this particular phone that I’m using. It talks about the hardware, it gives me some parameters in terms of the size and the weight and the number of pixels on the screen. It breaks it down by mobility and dexterity features and vision and hearing. It’s interesting because it very simply has a template here where it list features, yes or no whether the future is there, and then it gives a description of that feature. I’m a little bit blown away at the amount of information that I’ve just learned by taking a look at my device on here. It’s great.SABINE LOBNIG: I’m happy to hear that.WADE WINGLER: I also see on the site here, it talks about apps and how to find apps that are accessible and compatible with your devices. Can you tell me a little bit about that?SABINE LOBNIG: We decided to expand the GARI database to apps. Actually because of the demand from users, they said that the mobile — that is not only about the hardware of the device, the software and the operating system, but that apps, the third-party applications, have become integral part. If they are switching mobile phones, for example, if they are switching from one operating platform to the other, sometimes they just want to make sure that their favorite accessibility app will also be supported on a different platform. Or sometimes they want to have a certain overview of what kind of accessibility apps are available.I have to say that we are quite narrow in the criteria of what we list on GARI. We do not list all the apps that are accessible. We only list accessibility related apps, so specifically apps that have been designed to help people overcome a barrier. The star examples are Be My Eyes, like Tap Tap See, for the blind people, or to have a screen reader app, to have the KNFB, but also to have sign language apps, video communication apps, those kinds of apps we would list. Also we only list apps that have been specifically recommended by at least one of the disability groups. At least one of those groups have tested the apps and have recommended the apps to their members actively. Those are our criteria for selection for the apps.For the moment, we have around 250 apps listed in GARI, which is a nice amount. Of course it pales in comparison to the over 1000 telephone models we have in the GARI database. But that is also because our members, the manufacturers, they populate the GARI database with the information about their devices. Usually before they bring in a device to market, they also enter it into the GARI database to provide real-time information, so to speak, when they bring their device to the market. Also a nice feature may be good to mention is that GARI is not only available in English. It’s available in 16 different languages. That is for the mobile phone section as well as for the tablet section and for the apps, although I have to admit that especially in the apps, the majority of the apps are English.WADE WINGLER: Obviously a whole lot of work has gone into this project. We have about a minute left in the interview. Can you tell me a little bit about the trends you have seen with accessibility in mobile devices, or some of the things you anticipate coming in the future?SABINE LOBNIG: That’s a very difficult question. I can tell you what was very interesting for us before the summer when we did our second feature review of GARI. What we saw when we asked disability groups around the world about accessibility features that they were looking for that they were still missing in the devices, when we did it two years ago, there were at least 15 to 20 new features suggested. When we did it this year, there was only one single features suggested. We have arrived at a pretty good place in mobile accessibility, and now it’s very important to get the information out to the people because I think that’s the one area where we are really lacking. There are lots of people that could benefit from the features and are they just don’t know about it. And then of course it would be very interesting to see in the future connected world how wearables joined into this ecosystem and also all the other connected devices, the connected home, the connected smart TV, and so on. We’ll definitely see more of the joint use of several devices.WADE WINGLER: Sabine, if people want to know more about what’s happening with the MMF or GARI, what’s the website again and what contact information would you provide?SABINE LOBNIG: The easiest thing is if you go to, to the website, to the database itself, and if you click on the contact page where you get a direct email address we can to contact us. On the bottom of the page can you also have all the links to our social media presence. You have twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. Usually we are quite quick in reacting to user demands.WADE WINGLER: Sabine Lobnig is the deputy director of communications and regulations for the mobile manufacturers forum and today has been talking to us about the global accessibility reporting initiative, or GARI, at Sabine, thank you so much for joining us from Indiana today.SABINE LOBNIG: Thanks a lot, Wade. It was a pleasure.WADE WINGLER: Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find more shows like this, plus much more, over at That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana. 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