We offer specialised services and promote the development of mobile phones and apps that are easier to use for elderly customers and people with a disability

Accessibility – Our approach

We want to make the mobile phones and services we provide easier to use for elderly customers and people who have a disability.

The number of people excluded from communications technology due to profound disabilities is relatively small, although the potential for technology to improve their quality of life is substantial. We partner with accessibility organisations to understand the needs of people with severe disabilities and work with handset manufacturers to develop specialist assistive products and services.

Much of this work is led by Vodafone Spain and its Foundation, which together act as a centre of excellence for accessibility within Vodafone. We also promote the creation of accessible apps through the Vodafone Foundation Mobile for Good Europe Awards.

Many more people experience difficulty using mobile devices due to minor impairments, particularly as they get older. With ageing populations in many of our markets, meeting the needs of elderly customers is an important opportunity for Vodafone.

Specialist products

Our specialist products and services include:

  • Handsets that are compatible with hearing aids and special price plans (such as the Sign Plan from Vodafone Spain) that offer customers who are deaf or hard of hearing a reduced cost text messaging service and data and video calls to facilitate use of sign language
  • Easy-to-use handsets that will dial designated emergency numbers at the touch of a button
  • Customer service advisers trained on disability issues and the range of products and services available to customers with disabilities.

We are conscious that customers often want easy-to-use phones without the stigma of a ‘special’ handset. Handsets such as the Alcatel 20.00, Alcatel 2010G, Emporia RL2 and Vodafone Smart III offer accessibility features such as large keypads, clear keys, large colour displays, adjustable volumes and voice-activated dialling, while maintaining an attractive design.

In focus: Improving the accessibility of our stores in Spain

Building on our Accessible Shop project, we have been working to improve the accessibility of our stores in Spain, in accordance with the criteria and requirements of the Spanish Universal Accessibility Standard (UNE 170001). Through the Accessible Shop project, we aim to offer our products and services in stores that are accessible to everyone, irrespective of their physical and sensory capabilities.

Initiatives include improving access by installing automatic sliding doors, ramps and elevators, lowering the height of counters and installing loop systems for use with hearing aids. We also redesigned the layout of some stores to improve the contrast of displays and create areas where customers can sit, rest and watch commercials and advertising.

We have already implemented solutions to comply with the Spanish Universal Accessibility Standard – certified by an external certification body – in around 94% of Vodafone stores in Spain.

Accessibility apps

Smartphones offer an opportunity to improve accessibility through tailored apps for people with disabilities. Building on the success of the Vodafone Foundation’s Smart Accessibility Awards, accessibility is one of four categories in the Vodafone Foundation Mobile for Good Europe Awards introduced in 2013. The new awards – a joint initiative between the Vodafone Foundation, the AGE Platform Europe and the European Disability Forum – offer a total prize fund of €200,000 to promote the development of apps that benefit society more broadly.

In 2013, winners included:

  • ColorADD® – designed to enable colour-blind people to understand colours through a simple coding system. An estimated 350 million people are colour blind, around 10% of the global male population. The ColorADD® Universal code ensures equal accessibility for all when colour is a factor in identification, orientation or choice
  • MindTags – uses speech-to-text and text-to-speech capabilities to enable people with hearing or visual impairments to take advantage of new wireless technology called Near Field Communication (NFC). NFC allows users to leave information and reviews at a particular location, and access those left by others
  • Simple Tweet – a simplified Twitter app designed to meet the needs of users with low technical skills, visual or motor disabilities, and older people. The app includes special features to enable universal access to Twitter.

In focus: Projects for special needs users

In 2013, we launched three new projects for people with special needs in Spain: aMiAlcance, Enred@te and AudescMobile. aMiAlcance from #ASPACEnet aims to make smartphones and instant messaging applications accessible for people with cerebral palsy; Enred@te is a social network designed to improve communication for elderly users; and the AudescMobile app (developed in association with the ONCE Foundation) allows visually impaired users to follow Spanish films and TV series on mobile devices. The app works with multiple platforms, including cinema screening, internet, television and DVDs, to provide audio descriptions that can be played back at the same time as the visuals.

Watch the videos below for more information:

In focus: Tackling loneliness among older customers

Loneliness affects a lot of older people, but it is a particular problem for women, since they are more likely to live longer and live alone in old age. Vodafone Spain Foundation, in partnership with the Spanish Red Cross and the TecSOS Foundation, launched SocialTV to connect older people to their friends, families and carers. Simply installing a TV set top box allows users to make video and voice calls, as well as giving them access to an online network where they can share photos and videos with each other. Following a pilot with 100 elderly people in Spain, around 94% agreed communication with others became easier and 85% felt the service enabled them to expand their social network. In 2013/14, this service evolved and is now known as Enred@te. It can be accessed through a PC, tablet or smartphone. We are also exploring the potential to use this service to help organisations reach more elderly people and support virtual volunteering.