21 Oct 2011
Operators in the United States are customizing the mobile experience for the deaf and hearing impaired, but only a handful of operators in Asia appear to be listening to the needs of this segment.
Late last month, Singapore’s M1 took a step toward catering to the needs of the hearing-impaired by launching two service plans exclusively for members of the Singapore Association for the Deaf. The plans, one of which is targeted at hearing-impaired Blackberry users, contain no voice call minutes. Instead, users get 50 minutes of free outgoing video calls, free incoming video calls, a 3GB data bundle and a whopping 10,000 SMS and MMS. The plans are priced at S$25.68 ($20.17) and S$29.96 for Blackberry users.
M1’s chief marketing officer P. Subramaniam said at the plans’ launch that the operator recognized hearing-impaired individuals primarily communicated via email, SMS, MMS, instant messaging, social applications and video calls and expressed hope that the plans would better cater to the needs of this segment.
Qatar’s Q-Tel offers deaf and hearing-impaired users a 50% discount off rates for local SMS, MMS voice and video calls; and Q-Tel late last year announced an initiative in conjunction with Vodafone Qatar and the Qatar Assistive Technology Centre to enhance the mobile experience for disabled individuals via methods such as assistive technologies and specialized handsets.
Asia’s neighbors Australia and New Zealand fare slightly better.
Incumbents Telecom New Zealand and Telstra provide assistive services and guides on using mobile phones for the hearing impaired.