In partnership with Vodacom, the South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB) will now have an easier and more accessible avenue to bring mobile communication closer to the visually impaired. Today Vodacom will be installing a mobile service kiosk at SANCB’s premises in Pretoria. The main aim of the kiosks is to provide training and to empower the SANCB staff on how to use accessible smartphones effectively. The accessible smartphones, which will be provided by Vodacom, come with built-in text-to-speech software called TalkBack for Android devices and VoiceOver for Apple devices. This function can be activated in the settings and accessibility menu. These text-to-speech programmes gives audio feedback on the contact list, all messages and notifications, menus, emails, internet pages, GPS maps, names of apps and Facebook, and more.
“This initiative is part of our ongoing strategy to ensure that all our customers stay connected and are able to experience the best that technology has to offer. Modern Technology allows people with disabilities to be self-reliant and fully connected in both a personal and business context”, says Vodacom Managing Executive, Consumer Business Unit in Gauteng Region, Melanie Forbes
The Vodacom Kiosk will not only equip visually impaired mobile phone users on how to use the build-in text-to-speech apps on accessible smartphones, but will enhance their customer experience by making it easier to access Vodacom products. Once the SANCB staff members have been fully trained, they will be able to demonstrate to their visually impaired clients, how to use Facebook, Twitter, and emails as well as how to access news sites online, using Vodacom’s accessible mobile devices. The kiosk will also sell Vodacom products such as airtime and starter packs. This sustainable model does not only enable SANCB to generate an income, it also empowers their staff by teaching them new skills.
Antonius Spek, CEO of SA National Council for the Blind, said: “We are thrilled to have partnered with Vodacom in offering this convenient service to our members. Owning a device is one thing. But being able to use it effectively can provide an increased sense of freedom for those living with a disability. It provides a sense of independence as more often than not mobile device interfaces are inaccessible to people who are visually impaired. This kiosk will assist us to ease the burden that so many of our visually impaired members face daily when interacting with mobile technology”.
Vodacom has been providing accessible products and services to customers with disabilities since 2004. During March this year, Vodacom received a Change Agents and Disability Champion amongst South Africans Award at the Human Rights Summit from the Disability Alliance (SADA). This award recognises Vodacom for being fully engaged in the process of accessible and affordable ICT in South Africa.
Karen Smit, Vodacom Principal Specialist for Specific Needs says the establishment of this division has really put customers with disabilities at the centre. The team of specialists focus on the specific needs of customers by providing them with not only the right products but servicing them in a way that truly accommodates their needs. “We are confident that this initiative will provide more convenience for the visually impaired customers to get connected and experience all the benefits of mobile technology”, adds Smit.
As part of the group’s CARE initiative, Vodacom has over the years developed a number of products and revamped its service models to cater for the specific needs segment of the market. Some of the targeted products and specialists services offered on the network include; a device repair priority process and devices with big buttons. The device repair priority process enables disabled customers to have their devices repaired in a shorter period of time. The phones with the big buttons cater for the elderly and allows them to easily see the keypad and words when typing.
In 2015 Vodacom also introduced the new Smart 6 smartphone, one of the most affordable accessible smartphone for the visually impaired. Another innovation which was launched by Vodacom recently is the HearZA app which was developed in partnership with the University of Pretoria. HearZA is a smartphone based national hearing test app. The App helps with early detection of hearing problems which is essential in mitigating possible hearing losses in the future.
Vodacom plans to roll out more kiosks in each province having already successfully launched the Cape Town kiosk in partnership with the Cape Town Society for the Blind last June. For more information on Vodacom’s specific needs products log on to: https://myvodacom.secure.vodacom.co.za/vodacom/services/specific-needs