Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the University of Southampton & MOOCAP's online course, Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society. Join the course to learn more.

Using multimedia on mobile devices for communication

Mobile devices not only capture and present video and sound but also allow communication with someone else using multimedia.

Keeping connected

A mobile phone can be a lifeline for individuals who may have mental health problems or a cognitive impairment. Being able to seek immediate support and talking with a friend has been known to prevent some from committing suicide.

If a person has had a stroke and has aphasia, it is possible to offer support with the organisation of daily life activities, through synchronised calendars and task lists. The times that it is important to stay in contact, with caregivers and keep appointments with social institutions, has become increasingly easier to achieve.

Reminders can trigger the mobile phone owner through haptic (vibration) or acoustic (sound) indicators.

Video conferencing

It is now possible to set up video conferencing between those who are deaf, so that they can sign during conversations. The smartphone’s camera, using autofocus, handles all the image capturing.

Both signers can watch themselves, as long as the background provides sufficient contrast. More and more relay services provide a bridge between those who sign and people who are speaking and hearing.

Sign language interpreters can be called and they speak through another video conference session with someone who is hearing. You will find YouTube has many video logs from signers who have recorded themselves with their smartphones.

Watching films

Special apps have been created for those with vision and hearing difficulties going to the cinema. A film can be synchronised with audio descriptions as well as captions and streamed to a mobile phone, so that those requiring alternative formats can enjoy the action. No one else is disturbed and the extra effort for the distributor is minimal, because no specific technology is needed.


Smartphones can carry many different types of audiobooks using built-in or additional apps. These apps and their content in the form or ebooks or etexts may not always be totally accessible or respond to the built in accessibility options. It can be easier for those with visual impairments to use dedicated devices and free specialist services such as the RNIB in UK or ONCE in Spain

Most specialist devices such as the Plextalk Pocket DAISY player have keys for input and the control of audio is more straightforward than listening to a button label on a touch display.

In particular the navigation beyond the change of audio tracks is well supported by the DAISY book format. Practically all libraries for the blind produce DAISY titles nowadays and integrate either synthesised or recorded audio with structured text. Structured text allows the user to go forward and backwards in the audio book from chapters down to paragraph by paragraph or sentence by sentence.

Recording and editing

Tablets and smartphones are not only good at recording audio, such as music or podcasts, but also for editing recordings. Many audio editing apps on iOS and Android are accessible and it is easy to cut a track or operate a fader to control the volume.

Even if the amount of data is considerable, WiFi allows the synchronisation of podcasts with repositories in the cloud without worrying about the phone’s file storage or phone plan with the connection company.

Identifying podcasts and other multimedia content can be simple through iBeacons and QR Codes. Finding these codes is not easy if you have a visual impairment, but tactile markings can help and specialist QR code readers have been developed with audio feedback to help those who are blind.

Some apps also offer optical character recognition (OCR) so that picture taking has become an interesting activity for some blind people. For example some apps recognise text on bank notes, cans and bottles and even classify, as well as name, common objects in front of the camera.

Try out some of these apps using your own mobile phone, record your voice or launch a video call if you haven’t done so before. How did you get on?

© This work is a derivative of a work created by Johannes Kepler Universität Linz and Technische Universität Dresden, and licensed under CC-BY BY 4.0 International Licence adapted and used by the University of Southampton. Erasmus + MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership.

Share this article:

This article is from the free online course:

Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society

University of Southampton