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22 February 2024
12:00 UK / 07:00 EST

[Zero Conference: co-hosting session] Smartphones - Assistive Technology shows its truly transformative potential


The Zero Project Conference 2024: Inclusive Education, and ICT. A unique global meeting place to innovate for disability inclusion. More than 1,000 people from 100 countries will attend the annual conference at the United Nations Offices in Vienna, and more than 10,000 persons will be joining online or watch the recorded sessions on Youtube on demand. This year, innovations and sessions will be centred around the topics of Inclusive Education, and ICT.


Smartphones with internet connectivity can transform the lives of persons with disabilities. They can play a pivotal role in ensuring that persons with disabilities thrive by creating access to information, education, and employment opportunities that might otherwise be out of reach. Smartphones act as both enablers to using digital assistive technologies, and assistive technologies themselves. For example, a person with a visual impairment can use an application such as BlindSquare to receive relevant information about their surroundings in order to locate shops or other places of interest. Other applications can understand slurred speech and translate to text, while read-aloud software can make websites accessible.

However, most persons with disabilities do not have access to a smartphone or get the training in digital skills necessary to be able to maximize their phone use, especially in low-and middle-income countries. GDI Hub, ATscale and Google want to change this so that more people can live more productive and independent lives than before and are undertaking an exciting study in Kenya, India and Brazil with 800 participants who have received smartphones and training. The study will explore what it will take to make smartphones more accessible, affordable and effective to meet the needs of persons with disabilities, including accessing and using accessibility features already built into smartphones within the context of low and middle-income countries. Initial evidence on the ways in which smartphones are both an enabler in people’s lives, and a piece of assistive technology with the potential to replace older forms of stand-alone assistive technology will be shared.

Hear how GDI Hub, ATscale and Google are working on access and digital training to support disabled people maximize their phone use, especially in low-and middle-income countries.

About GDI Hub

Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub) is a research and practice centre driving disability innovation for a fairer world. Operational in 41 countries, with more than 70 partners, we've reached 29 million people since launching in 2016.

About ATscale

ATscale, the Global Partnership for Assistive Technology (AT), is a cross-sector global partnership with a mission to transform people’s lives through AT. It catalyzes action to ensure that, by 2030, an additional 500 million people in low- and middle-income countries get the life-changing AT they need.

About Google

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Through products and platforms like Search, Maps, Gmail, Android, Google Play, Chrome, and YouTube, Google plays a meaningful role in the daily lives of billions of people and has become one of the most widely-known companies in the world. Google is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc