Affordable access opportunities for Australia

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Thursday, 3 September 2015 12:55pm

At the ACCAN National Conference on 2 September, Media Access Australia CEO Alex Varley joined a panel to discuss challenges for the telecommunications industry around affordability.

Mature man using a smartphone outdoors

According to Varley, the opportunities are waiting to be tapped in servicing the almost 20% of the population with a disability who have mainstream needs. He outlined five key issues to consider:

  1. Disability is not a single niche market and you should think about differing needs of different audiences. A student using a tablet is going to need lots of data, long battery life, good storage and good social media capability, along with accessibility coverage for their disability. This contrasts with a senior who may be looking to text and call their grandchildren, upload photos onto Facebook and access some government services electronically.
  2. The progress over the last five years is such that many devices across many price points have some levels of accessibility, including the ultra-cheap devices. Accessibility is no longer an Apple iOS advantage.
  3. Mobiles and tablets are designed as universal devices and you use a fraction of their capabilities and appropriate apps to do what you want to do. So the apps can be as important in considering accessibility issues as the inbuilt features. Competitions such as the ACCAN Apps for All Challenge illustrate the importance of this.
  4. At a retail level, telecommunications companies should use mainstream approaches when dealing with people with disabilities. Questions around price points, how the device is going to be used and what the specific features are that will help with the disability should be leading the conversation, knowing that there are many devices that will meet these needs. And those devices come from the same general range that they are selling to everyone else.
  5. Recognise that a mobile device or tablet is the centrepiece of your communications and interaction with the world, particularly as more devices and services are internet enabled and connected.

These themes, along with practical information for consumers around affordable accessible mobiles and tablets, form part of the ACCAN-grant funded Affordable Access project, which is being led by Media Access Australia’s Dr Scott Hollier.

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