Roberta: Both Apple and Google have received a lot of attention about the accessibility of their mobile operating systems, iOS and Android. Today we are joined in the studio by Sarah Pulis, Manager of Digital Media and Technology, from Media Access Australia, who’s going to talk to us about the different approaches that Apple and Google have taken in their mobile operating systems and what this means for you. Welcome, Sarah.
Sarah: Thanks very much, Roberta.
Roberta: What approach has Apple taken to accessibility in iOS, Sarah?
Sarah: Look, Apple has a long history of including assistive technology in its products as a standard feature and at no extra cost. The history started with the inclusion of accessibility features in their operating systems for computers. And this has continued through to their mobile operating system, iOS. What we see with Apple is that they focus on a steady progression of accessibility features. So they included voiceover, which is their screen-reader software in iOS3, which was in June 2009. And what we’ve seen is we’ve seen that there are a number of access features that are included within iOS and that Apple actually listens to feedback from the community and continues to refine these accessibility features in subsequent releases.
Roberta: How is that different to the approach that Google has taken?
Sarah: Look, Google’s approach has actually been a lot more haphazard than Apple’s steady progression. There was little accessibility prior to version 1.6, which was released in September 2009. What we see is there are initiatives like Project i3 and also third parties that are actually improving the accessibility. So it’s not only Google that is working on this and providing the assistive technology. What we see today is that Android devices can support a number of accessibility features but the problem is there’s a lot of inconsistencies between which features are built in or need to be downloaded. And some providers include more accessibility features than others. So unfortunately, the general access to the platform is still quite limited and it’s certainly not as sophisticated as what we find in Apple’s mobile operating system.
Roberta: So what does this mean for people who want to purchase a smartphone, for instance?
Sarah: Well, look, people looking to purchase a smartphone or the Apple smartphone, iPhone, they actually know what they’re getting. So they know that the core operating system is accessible. They know they get the assistive technologies that are quite sophisticated, like voiceover and screen magnifier. And they know that these are built in at no extra cost. The flipside is that with Android you can’t guarantee the level of accessibility you’re getting with your device but there are benefits to their approach. One is that they do have third party software that allows you to enhance the accessibility of your smartphone. So, for instance, there’s third party screen readers but you do have to buy them, so they don’t come standard with Google Android. The other thing is that because there are a lot more Android smartphones out there on the market, the choice is much wider and also the price range is a lot wider, as well. So the iPhone, you know, is a fairly expensive smartphone, whereas you can get a lot cheaper Android smartphones that could have those accessibility features.
Roberta: That’s interesting to know. So how can people find out more about accessible technologies?
Sarah: Well, look, if you visit the Media Access website, you’ll see that we’ve got both a digital technology section and an online media section. This has a whole wealth of information about accessible technologies and also accessible web content. So if you visit the digital technology section, we’ve got information about the accessibility of portable devices like media players, so, you know, your iPod Shuffle; tablets; eReaders, like Amazon Kindle; and also, of course, the smartphone. It also has information about assistive technologies like screen readers and screen magnifiers for your computer, access features that you’ll find in your operating system and accessible gaming, as well.
Roberta: Well, thank you for talking with us today, Sarah. You can visit the Media Access Australia website at mediaaccess.org.au for more information about digital technology and online media, including access reviews about smartphones, portable media players and readers, as Sarah just said. Alternatively, if you have a question, you can email Media Access Australia at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can talk to somebody, 02 92126242 for more information. Thank you, Sarah.
Sarah: No problem, Roberta.
Roberta: I’ve been speaking with Sarah Pulis, Manager of Digital Media and Technology for Media Access Australia. Media Access Australia are supporters of this program.
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