Mobile Phone Technology for ALL: Towards Reducing the Digital Divide

Mobile Phone Technology for ALL: Towards Reducing the Digital Divide

Diane Nelson Bryen (Temple University, USA & University of Pretoria, South Africa) and Enid Moolman (University of Pretoria, South Africa)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch115
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Abstract

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has been ratified by more than 137 countries. Among its 55 articles, access to information and communication technologies is highlighted. However, people with intellectual and communication disabilities continue to have limited access to mobile phone technologies. This article describes the potential of mobile phones for this population and what is known about its use by children and adults with intellectual disabilities as well as those with significant communication disabilities. Policy implications to reduce this digital divide will be proposed as well as needed research.
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Introduction

Use of cell phones has grown dramatically. By the turn of this century, cell phone use had reached a majority of the populations in Canada, the United States, Australia, Germany, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and Italy. However, a digital divide exists between people with and without disabilities in their use of mobile phones. Gaps in usage occur across all age groups. In a study by Bryen, Carey and Potts (2007), only 20% of adults with significant communication disabilities used cell phones. Yet, the need for cell phones has been expressed more than a decade ago to improve health and safety; manage transportation; and communicate with employers, friends, and families (Bryen & Pecunas, 2004). Similar needs have been expressed by adults with intellectual disabilities (Bryen, Carey & Friedman, 2007).

Given the expanding capabilities of mobile phones for communication, access to information, commerce, entertainment, and health and safety, without access to those technologies people with intellectual and those with communication disabilities will be further isolated and marginalized in society. Consequently, the promise of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) will not be realized.

In this article mobile phone technology includes cell phones and smartphones that enable individuals with and without disabilities to communicate and access information. Cell phones are portable telephones that use wireless cellular technology to send and receive phone signals.

An outgrowth of cellular technology is smart phones or smartphones. According to Phone Scoop (2014) a smartphone, is “a category of mobile device that provides advanced capabilities beyond a typical mobile phone. Smartphones run complete operating system (OS) software that provides a standardized interface and platform for application developers. Most smartphones contain features such as calendars, media players, GPS navigation, web browsing, Wi-Fi, and third party applications and accessories.

Digital divide is defined as the gap between those with regular, effective access and ability to use digital technologies and those without (Boyera, 2004). The digital divide is a social issue, given that the divide is based on age, education, race, household income, and disability status (Feingold, 2013; Jackson, Kolenic, Fitzgerald, Harold, & Von Eye, 2008; and Zickuhr & Smith, 2012).

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is an umbrella term that encompasses the communication methods used to supplement or replace speech or writing for those with impairments in the production or comprehension of spoken or written language (Wikipedia, 2014). For the purpose of this article, we have focused primarily on speech generating devices.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is an international human rights and development treaty to protect the rights of persons with disabilities and ensure that discrimination based on disability does not occur. It was ratified on 30 November 2006. Article 9 of the CRPD focuses on accessibility, including access to information and communication technologies.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Augmentative and Alternative Communication or AAC: An umbrella term that encompasses the nonspeech communication methods used to supplement or replace speech or writing for those with impairments in the production or comprehension of spoken or written language. For the purpose of this article, we have focused primarily on speech generating devices.

Universal Design: An approach to design that incorporates principles and products that are accessible to and usable by everyone, including persons with a variety of disabilities.

Intellectual or Cognitive Disabilities: A significant limitation in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior.

Digital Divide: An economic or social inequality among people in their access to or use of information and communication technologies.

Cell phone or Mobile phone: Portable telephones that use wireless cellular technology to send and receive phone signals.

Disability or Disabilities: A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities or CRPD: An international human rights and development treaty to protect the rights of persons with disabilities and ensure that discrimination based on disability does not occur. It was ratified on 30 November 2006. Article 9 of the CRPD focuses on accessibility, including access to information and communication technologies.

Human Rights: Rights afforded to all human beings regardless of race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion, language, gender, or any other status including disability.

Information and Communication Technology or ICT: Technologies that integrate telecommunication and computer/internet technologies.

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