Several government organizations support clients and staff who are deaf or hard of hearing. More importantly, as leaders in society, it’s key that governments act as a role model, encouraging others in the private sector to make technology and information accessible to all citizens.
I’ve been blogging for the past few weeks about BlackBerry® products and their impact on the public sector, and today I wanted to focus on accessibility for citizens who may have impairments. Accessibility is an issue everyone deals with as they seek to make their organizations open to a wide array of both employees and customers. Governments take this effort seriously and are leaders in the field — not only from a regulatory perspective, but because their customers are so diverse, and they can’t exclude anyone. With an eye to this leadership in accessibility, many government organizations are using the mobile platform as a key driver to improve the way citizens and staff access public services.
When it comes to making a difference, the BlackBerry platform offers accessibility features that help people communicate more easily and with more choices. The organizations referenced below either assess the value of accessibility technology by testing devices, or deploy accessible technologies to their clients. I thought their stories were interesting, and definitely inspiring.
The State of New Mexico Commission for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CDHH) decided to give qualifying New Mexico residents BlackBerry smartphones because the devices offer features in one package that they couldn’t get anywhere else. All current BlackBerry smartphones meet or exceed certification requirements by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for hearing aid compatibility.
The BlackBerry solution was also attractive to the agency because it offers versatility in communications. The BlackBerry® Noise-Isolating Headset, for example, is designed to boost sound levels; BlackBerry® Messenger (BBM™) makes it easier to have instant communications; email and text offer more options for sending a message. The agency chose BlackBerry smartphones because they’re both a business and personal communication tool that can enhance the lives of clients at work and home.
Another organization has a similar point of view. Telecommunications for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (TDI) staff use BlackBerry smartphones because they find that the devices make working much easier. TDI are also called on to recommend the best accessibility technologies to their members, and BlackBerry smartphones are one of the technologies that they recommend.
BlackBerry smartphones stand out for TDI for the same communications-enhancing reasons, but it’s also about the devices’ QWERTY keyboards and how suited they are to typing long messages. They also like that BlackBerry smartphones work with SIPRelay® by Sorrenson Communications and Wireless IP-Relay by Purple® technologies, which support text-based calling. Also, apps such as Twitter® for BlackBerry smartphones and Facebook® for BlackBerry smartphones are important for both social networking and the advocacy efforts of this lobby group.
Apps like Tap to Talk™ for the BlackBerry® PlayBook™ tablet offers accessibility features for children. Just tap a picture and the TapToTalk app “speaks”. Each picture can lead to another screen of pictures that can help a non-verbal child communicate.
I really like that Research In Motion® (RIM®) continues to break new ground with accessibility features for the BlackBerry platform. (Be sure to check out the Inside BlackBerry Blog’s post about BlackBerry® Screen Reader as well.)
Do you consider accessibility issues when deploying IT solutions? How do you address these concerns in a cost-effective manner?