The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) now has Australia’s first independent guide to telco products suitable for people with disability to reduce the stress of buying a new phone.

As Australia’s peak body representing communications consumers, ACCAN has been advocating for a service that will eliminate the growing information vacuum about equipment and services suitable for people with disability in our increasingly digitally connected society.

It is a great move to bring all big button, loud ringer, visual alert style of devices into one portal hosted by IDEAS NSW – a charitable organisation working with disabilities of all types.

IDEAS (Information on Disability Education Awareness Services) receives funding from the NSW Government through Ageing, Disability & Home Care to provide a service to people living in NSW. But the Accessible Telecoms portal funded by the National Disability Insurance Agency is open to all Australians.

You may think we are going over the top to establish credibility, but it is important these days as there are so many ‘evil’ comparison websites that purport to offer free comparison and advice but all they want is your details to make you a customer and make money. IDEAs is not that.

Search for devices

This can be a little daunting – it looks like a programmer was told to offer every conceivable choice! Step one – fire the programmer and group logical choices to make selection easier!

ACCAN
This is a small part of a long and confusing list

You start with the type of device – landline (standard or TTY), mobile etc. Then you tick many boxes relating to your needs. With my mum we selected landline, photo assist contact list, adjustable hearing volume and came up with one device – Oricom Care80. There are at least five brands/devices that meet those criteria but they are not in the database.

ACCAN

Next, we selected mobile and went to town on requirements – nothing came up. At a minimum it should list ‘close’ matches and flag what is missing.

Removing the selection criteria revealed 172 smartphones and if the company name starts with A – like Alcatel and Apple – you are well ahead. All up there are 226 devices in the database.

ACCAN

I have several concerns here, and they all relate to the curation of the list.

First, is the ease of knocking contenders out by selecting one criterion they are missing. For example, clicking on having a ‘hearing accessory’ eliminated all smartphones. In fact, all Bluetooth enabled smartphones can connect to Bluetooth enabled hearing aids! And most have a 3.5mm audio jack too.

There are legitimate brands that are missing too. For example, VTech Careline range of handsets, answering machines, loud doorbells, and emergency pendants are extremely popular with disabled. GadgetGuy’s review is here.  

There are brands and companies that are not well known here. Knowing our audience well (I am a sexagenarian with an octogenarian mum) they want to deal with brands and companies they know and trust. That means eliminating any shady online, grey market/parallel importers from the list (which probably accounts for the older and unknown model listings).

All we are saying is that the curation and listing process needs a lot of work.  GadgetGuy has flagged that.

GadgetGuy’s take: Great concept ACCAN but the execution needs work.

ACCAN is to be congratulated – this is a great concept initially let down by GIGO – garbage-in, garbage-out and an overzealous web page programmer. It needs a more granular categorisation of the database, easier ‘needs’ groupings, and a far more selective, legitimate Australian model and supplier inclusion.

Great first step.