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Accessibility: A New Frontier for Mobile Technologies

G3ict publishes White Paper on “Accessibility, Innovation and Sustainability at AT&T.

ATLANTA (March 15, 2011) —

Mobile communications technology intended to benefit persons with disabilities and aging adults can bring considerable benefits to users with or without disabilities as mobile service providers implement innovative strategies and business processes to promote them, according to a White Paper released today by G3ict, the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies. The White Paper “Accessibility, Innovation and Sustainability at AT&T,” highlights telecommunications company AT&T’s efforts to integrate Universal Design (designing products and services for the greatest number of users) and accessibility in product development, customer services and other areas. The study also examines how creating a corporate culture of citizenship and sustainability fosters inclusion in the workplace that can encourage greater innovation for customers with and without disabilities.

With more than five billion mobile devices in service worldwide, and exponential growth of mobile applications in all domains of activity, mobile phone accessibility and assistive applications for persons with disabilities are at the forefront of the agenda of all countries who have signed onto the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In the United States, 54 million persons live with disabilities, while that number reaches more than 650 million worldwide.

Mobile technologies can provide unprecedented benefits to persons with disabilities and aging adults, including increasing productivity at work or school; improving safety and reducing isolation; offering accessible interfaces such as text-to-speech or voice recognition; providing text messaging functions for persons with a hearing loss; making available assistive solutions such as home remote controls; scanning text read aloud; or providing walking guidance via GPS and voice prompt. Universally designed mobile technologies enable people with disabilities and those facing age-related disabilities to use technology to live independently, work competitively and fully participate in society as well as provide added functionality for many people without disabilities. AT&T practices demonstrate that implementing Universal Design methodologies allows extending those benefits to all users who encounter situations when alternative mode of interaction with their mobile device is essential.

“When AT&T and Apple brought closed captioning to the iPhone, Universal Design met cutting-edge technology,” said Larry Goldberg, Director, The Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH (NCAM) and a member of AT&T’s Advisory Panel on Access and Aging (AAPAA), “deaf and hard-of-hearing persons celebrated, and everyone who appreciates captioning benefited from this exciting achievement.”

The study identified AT&T’s inclusion of persons with disabilities in its internal processes, both via its own employees living with disabilities and through its Advisory Panel on Access and Aging (AAPAA), as a key factor in its ability to make its products and services accessible and to gather input for continuous improvements and new solutions. The study examines the disability awareness training of more than 160,000 AT&T employees, and also documents the importance of dedicated marketing and sales resources to serve persons with disabilities and aging adults.

“AT&T’s experience shows that the ability of a carrier to deliver effective solutions for persons with disabilities is highly dependent upon its culture of inclusion, commitment to sustainability and Universal Design from the inception of product design to point of sales and customer service, and dedicated marketing, sales and services resources,” said Axel Leblois, G3ict’s Executive Director.

“When companies harnesses technological innovation in human terms, it can lead to improved quality of life - not just for people with disabilities but for nearly everyone,” said AT&T Senior Vice President of Global Public Policy, Len Cali. "Recognizing the needs of diverse populations around the world helps sustain our business and supports the abilities we all have – in all stages of life.”

Released at the 26th Annual California State University, Northridge Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference in March 2011, the G3ict study on AT&T’s expertise in promoting accessibility of mobile equipment and services illuminates the business case for accessible mobile services; shows how Universal Design is implemented across its organization and business divisions; and highlights the role of inclusive practices within the company. The study reveals how innovation is leveraged to develop new solutions for persons with disabilities, and it underscores the importance of sales and services resources dedicated to persons with disabilities and aging adults. The study discusses the evolving role of telecommunications carriers in crafting accessible new mobile technologies, and it highlights the emergence of a strong application developer’s ecosystem.

The study was conducted by interviewing AT&T personnel and third parties; analyzing the company’s product and service offerings; and examining internal documentation and processes. It is intended to serve as a case study to benefit all stakeholders involved in developing, marketing and promoting mobile accessibility and mobile assistive applications.

The G3ict White Paper is available at (Publications & Reports) in accessible PDF format, DAISY format as well as Braille files.

About G3ict

G3ict – the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies – is an Advocacy Initiative of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development ( Its mission is to promote and support the implementation of the dispositions of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities covering digital accessibility and assistive technologies. Participating organizations include industry, the public sector and organizations representing persons with disabilities. G3ict relies on an international network of ICT accessibility experts to develop practical tools, evaluation methods and benchmarks for State Parties, Disabled Persons Organizations and corporations to develop programs in support of assistive technologies and e-accessibility. Since inception G3ict has organized or contributed to 79 awareness raising and capacity building programs for policy makers in cooperation with international organizations such as the ITU, UNESCO, UNITAR and the World Bank on all continents. G3ict co-produces with ITU the e-accessibility policy toolkit for persons with disabilities ( which is widely used around the world by policy makers involved in the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. G3ict is funded through voluntary contributions from corporations, disabled persons organizations and foundations. Its programs are hosted by international organizations, governments, universities and foundations around the world.

About AT&T

AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) is a premier communications holding company. Its subsidiaries and affiliates – AT&T operating companies – are the providers of AT&T services in the United States and around the world. With an array of network resources, AT&T is a leading provider of wireless, Wi-Fi, high speed Internet and voice services. AT&T offers mobile broadband. It also offers TV services under the AT&T U-verse® and AT&T | DIRECTV brands. The company's suite of IP-based business communications services is one of the most advanced in the world. In American markets, AT&T Advertising Solutions and AT&T Interactive are known for their leadership in local search and advertising.

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Francesca Cesa Bianchi, Director External Relations, G3ict