Main content

Alert message

Australians with disability are harnessing gadgets, apps and websites to improve their lives but many are potentially missing out on the digital revolution because some app developers and manufacturers are failing to accommodate the needs of people with disability and older consumers.

The M-Enabling Australasia 2013 conference and showcase, a joint partnership between ACCAN and Telstra, will find and present solutions to this issue while also showcasing a range of accessible products and services.

"M-Enabling technology is a potential game changer for people with disability and older people," said ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin.

"Given Australia's rapid uptake of smartphones, it's clear that mobile technologies are increasingly essential to our lives and it is even more important that these technologies are made accessible for all," said Ms Corbin.

But according to Dr Scott Hollier, a project manager with Media Access Australia who is living with a visual impairment, many are being left behind because accessibility guidelines are not being followed by web and app developers.

Apple, Google and Microsoft have come a long way in building accessibility tools into their desktop and mobile operating systems and they also provide simple accessibility guidelines for developers.

"The solutions are there we just need people to use them," said Dr Hollier, who believes catering to people with disability makes sense from both a business and ethical perspective.

"About one in five Australians have some form of permanent disability and we all want to enjoy the same things as everybody else."

Dr Hollier, who for his PhD studied why people people with disability have problems accessing technology, said there were now free software tools such as screen reader software that are comparable to off-the-shelf professional versions costing thousands of dollars.

The two-day conference, being held on 14-15 August in Sydney, will bring together local and international experts on accessible technologies, mobile service providers, developers, manufacturers, retail and business groups, regulators, policymakers, and organisations representing people with disability and older people.

It will also feature a technology showcase, highlighting some of the latest innovations addressing the specific needs of people with disability and older people.

Telstra Disability Programs Manager Bert Ciavarra said the conference presented a unique opportunity to engage and collaborate with international experts on the most recent technological advances for people with disability.

"Telstra has partnered with ACCAN to bring this prestigious global event to Australia and to the Southern Hemisphere for the first time as part of our ongoing commitment to promote accessible digital technology to people with disability, part of our Everyone Connected program," Mr Ciavarra said.

Speakers for the conference include Axel Leblois, President and Executive Director, Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ICT); Karen Peltz Strauss, US Federal Communications Commission; and Graeme Innes AM, Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner.

People with disability aren't waiting for the big web companies to get on board – many have installed their own third-party hacks to make popular apps more accessible, such as Facely HD, an accessible version of Facebook, and Easychirp for Twitter.

Websites such as AppleVis provide valuable information on accessible apps. For instance, TapTapSee is an app designed to help people with visual impairments identify objects they encounter in their daily lives.

"We still have a long way to go in getting developers and ICT professionals to build websites and apps in a way that conform to the necessary guidelines," said Dr Hollier.

"If people just incorporate that into their work processes then it takes very little extra time and effort."

People with disability and older people represent a large proportion of the Australian population. In 2009, four million people (almost 20 per cent of the population) reported having a disability. In 2011, more than three million Australians were aged 65 or over.

The global M-Enabling initiative has previously been held in Washington DC, Beijing, Milan, San Francisco and Moscow.

For more information on M-Enabling Australasia 2013 and to register, go to: www.regonline.com.au/m-enabling

Ends

INTERVIEWS: ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin and Dr Scott Hollier from Media Access are available for interviews. Contact Asher Moses 0438 008 616 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Download: docMillions missing out on the digital revolution1.24 MB

Download: pdfMillions missing out on the digital revolution143.8 KB