Saturday, December 2, 2023

Device accessibility – progress and next steps

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is a good opportunity before the end of the year to look at what we have achieved in device accessibility this past year and where to direct our energies in the next months. 


In the first half of 2023, we published the outcomes of the sixth GARI feature review and began implementing the changes. This review process yet again confirmed the collaborative approach inherent within the GARI project, which combines consumer, government and industry views into a list of accessibility features that can be matched against devices - with the objective of helping consumers select devices that best fit their needs. 


Throughout the year, members of the MWF have been involved in the Hearing-Aid Compatibility (HAC) Task Force in the US, contributing to the proposal of a Waiver for an alternative testing methodology for volume control for two years, which was recently granted by the FCC. It also resulted in a draft Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) on how to move towards 100% hearing-aid compatibility for wireless devices, likely to be finalized and published in 2024. 


In the second half of the year, the MWF mapped the accessibility features listed in GARI against the requirements in Annex 1 of the European Accessibility Act (EAA) and the Web Accessibility Standard EN 301 549. This comparison of accessibility requirements and available features within devices, is the foundation for the MWF’s proposal for an interim solution for compliance reporting under the EAA until the harmonized standards arrive. The intention of this proposal is to provide legal certainty for the manufacturers on one hand and clear, practical information for consumers on the other hand. 


For 2024, the MWF is looking forward to continuing to promote device accessibility, including through our video series and continuing our discussions with stakeholders to better understand the diversity of needs and how devices can best address them.