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Nokia and accessibility: making phones for everyone

Ian Delaney Published by Ian Delaney October 05, 2012

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Nokia and accessibility: making phones for everyone

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253

Ian Delaney Published by Ian Delaney October 05, 2012

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Accessibility is extremely important to Nokia – we’re a business with ‘connecting people’ at the core of our company culture. Not just people in a particular geography, the young and healthy, or those who are financially well-off, but everyone. We talked to Nokia’s accessibility director, Petteri Alinikula, to find out more.

It’s a good time to catch up. This week we’re holding the ‘Nokia Accessibility Update’, twelve months on from its initial meeting at Nokia World 2011. Petteri explains that the point of the summit is to talk to larger customers and organisations that represent disabled people about what Nokia is doing to make its phones accessible. It’s also a listening opportunity so we can better decide priorities for future development.

Three important announcements were made at the update:

First, there’s very good news for partially-sighted people when it comes to our forthcoming Lumia smartphones. The Windows Phone 8 operating system on the Nokia Lumia 920 and Lumia 820 expands on the options available for users who struggle with a regular phone. There are four text sizes available and a screen magnifier. There’s also a high contrast display mode that makes reading text easier. Voice commands and screen reading options are also available, of course, as they are with current versions of the software (though there is not yet a full-blown screen reader).

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That said, the second announcement is that the Nokia Screen Reader app has been improved with a new version and is now being made available for all newer Symbian phones and 19 more languages. This app, as the name suggests, reads aloud whatever appears on your phone’s screen, and was previously only available for a subset of devices.

Nokia-Wireless-Loopset-LPS-6-BlueThird, and perhaps the most exciting at this point, is the release of a new Nokia Wireless Loopset (LPS-6). If you’re not familiar with these devices, they’re designed to make using a phone easier by coupling audio directly to a T-coil equipped cochlear implant or hearing aid.

It uses Bluetooth to receive audio from the phone and transmits it to the hearing aid, allowing hands-free operation. The audio fidelity on this new product has been considerably improved, to the extent that we now recommend it for listening to music as well as phone calls.

Since the LPS-6 Loopset is Bluetooth compliant, it will work with any Bluetooth compliant phone, including devices from competitors. Additionally, it allows for Near Field Communication (NFC) pairing, so you can just tap your (NFC-enabled) phone and the LPS-6 together to connect them.

It now also offers USB charging and audio, a better volume and frequency range, and a significantly longer talk time between charges than its predecessors.

If you’re having difficulty imagining how it works, here’s a video we produced about the forerunner to the latest product:

The video cannot be shown at the moment. Please try again later.

Ongoing mission

Continually improving accessibility features isn’t just something for those who are physically challenged in very severe ways, though.

Using your phone is sometimes tricky for all of us – when it’s raining and you’re carrying two bags of shopping; if you’re driving; or maybe it’s just too early in the morning.

So another reason accessibility is important is that, in Petteri’s words, “we all have disabled moments sometimes”. Good accessibility features improve the usability of phones for everyone. It’s about good practise, not special cases.

Petteri notes that while there’s still plenty of work to be done, the outlook is positive and efforts are accelerating. “Our ambition is to provide the best portfolio of phones for accessibility across the range.”

image credit: daveynin

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