The GSMA is hoping to use mobile technology to make the world more accessible to people with disabilities. To that end, the organization has launched a new set of ‘Principles for Driving the Digital Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities.’
In announcing the initiative (on International Day of Persons with Disabilities), the organization cited World Health Organization data that suggests that there are currently one billion people living with some kind of disability, the vast majority of whom (80 percent) are living in low and middle-income countries. Of those, nine in 10 don’t have access to assistive technology for their disability, which in turn limits their ability to participate in society and live independent lives.
The GSMA believes that mobile technology can help mitigate that problem. Smartphones are increasingly ubiquitous, and give people a cost-effective way to distribute assistive apps to people all over the world. With that in mind, the organization wants to make it easier for people with disabilities to get their hands on mobile devices, since its own research shows that people with disabilities are still less likely to own a smartphone or use the internet.
The GSMA is hoping that the Principles will encourage developers to consider people with disabilities in the design of their products. The initiative establishes three core principles for doing so, stating that developers should “embrace disability inclusion at every level of their organisation, understand how to reach and better serve persons with disabilities, and deliver inclusive products and services that meet the varied needs of people with disabilities.”
“Removing the barriers faced by persons with disabilities requires informed action from all stakeholders,” added GSMA Director General Mats Granryd. “It’s time for the mobile industry to take steps to ensure our products and services are accessible, unlocking the power of connectivity so that all people thrive.”
According to the GSMA, the new initiative will advance the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and Disability Inclusion Strategy, as well as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Companies like Telefónica and Orange have already backed the principles, as have a number of international disability organizations.
The Principles are in keeping with the GSMA’s broader efforts to raise digital and financial inclusion on multiple fronts. In April, the organization launched an Innovation Fund to promote internet usage in Asia and Africa, and it has since released a set of policy recommendations that are intended to improve coverage in rural areas. The organization is also working with the World Food Programme to provide financial relief during natural disasters and other crises.