Digital Essay, Vanessa Fuller. Group 4.

Vanessa Fuller
Mobile Media
February 27th, 2014
Digital Essay

Disabled Populations and Technologically Disadvantaged

Historical comparative outline of mobile media technology relative to accessibility will show that disabled persons are often not being considered for cell phone use. As a result the academic gauge for this occurrence as a social injustice is also slim. Gerard Goggin writes, “Cell Phone Culture Mobile Technology in everyday life,” as a criticism, exploration, and a commentary on the status of critical disability studies, as well as how disabled persons are taken into account in both contemporary and previous records of mobile technology.

In his research Goggin explores the how the designs of cellular phones are not suitable for persons with hearing and visual impairments, how their needs were once the basis for some technologies, and how they are specifically excluded from the growing market. Cell phones illustrate the general proposition that when technology is reshaped it is because of certain sorts of imagined users and use, with particular sorts of ‘normal’ (or rather nomalised) bodies and abilities. Typically people with disabilities do not fit into these categories. (Goggin, 2006, p. 91) (Shipley and Gill 2000).

Interestingly enough, historically it is true that there have been technologies that have made strides in communities of the hearing, visual, and even speech impaired. The invention of the telephone is a prime example. (Linger and Donner, 2009 p. 34). In the case of a blind individual, being able to have an audible conversation with someone from a distance, this was more helpful than convenient. However as these devices increased in popularity, the point of its sales were for convenience and aptitude to perform many functions. Known as 2nd generation mobile devices, cellular and car phones, they further excluded disabled persons. (Goggin, 2006, p. 91)

A more alarming aspect of accessibility is than exclusion the inclusion of disabled person. Though many of these technologies are not modeled to meet needs and are not marketed to disabled persons at large, they are certainly modeled after them. (Goggin, 2006, p. 95) Eventually the TTY technology, eradicated the human intercessor and now text messaging is the primary feature on these (too) smart phones. The same phones whose designs deny disabled usage. The digital manifest of TTY has interrupted the means of those who initially benefited, making them now outcasts. (Goggin, p. 97) Convergence has more than blurred those lines, and made it so that some people cannot step across them, and are not accounted for as credible users.


The designs of mobile phones specifically are Goggin’s prime examples of how manufacturers did not consider hard-of-hearing or deaf population, or the blind population, in constructing these devices. With the development of fancier applications, smaller screens, silent and visual only features, security systems, ubiquitous features, and touch-screen technology, it is apparent that these features are not physically compatible with about half a billion people.(Goggin, 2006, pg. 91).

An important aspect of exclusion goes beyond the legal or technical aspect of accessibility. When members of the deaf community expressed fear and irritation per electromagnetic waves relative to cellular devices their grievances were not so much ignored by gov’t or big business, as it was used to cripple the individual’s rights to be concerned. (Goggin, 2006, p.92). This cause and claim went unnoticed by other users when in fact these waves are dangers to us all, and now this sect of users are never acknowledged by the others. As a result the deaf, as with other disabled persons, are ostracized by a hegemonic society of more physically capable persons.

Goggin’s overall argument is that persons with disabilities are continually excluded from international advancement and mobility cellular devices. Academia ought to expand in discussion and action to repeal some this injustice. There is an ideology in play here in terms of technological “advancements,” in mobile media. (Cellular devices) This is an arena where social change can and most certainly should happen. Why create a world that people with audio/visual impairments suffer, when in truth, catering to their needs do not hinder those who do not have those ailments

It is certainly up to individuals who are designing and constructing mobile devices to broaden the user friendliness of these products. While convenience sells rise among those non-disabled persons the gap widens and cultural misunderstandings do as well. It takes scholars and activism to infiltrate this realm of technology to adequately address the needs of these people because otherwise we’ll never see a change. In terms of how to bring about change or at least awareness is to put it in the face of those who aren’t plagued by technology. Those who enjoy the perks of specific mobile technologies think highly enough of themselves to say they are, “conscious.” That opening is means for more important messages to slip through the cracks. In the link for the video provided, there is a mixed-media present and the fact that the artist crossed certain linguistic barriers shows how it can be done.
Even though features such as talk to text and other audible features were added to phones, it was never marketed to the people who may have benefited most.

Works Cited

CommonVEVO. (2009, October 6). Common-Come Close ft. Mary J. Blige. February 26,

Goggin, Gerard. (2006). Cell Phone Culture Mobile technology in everyday life. London: Routledge. Chapter 3, p. 91-103.

Ling, Rich and Donner, Jonathan. (2009). Mobile Communication. Malden, MA: Polity Press. Chapter 2, p.30-48.


One thought on “Digital Essay, Vanessa Fuller. Group 4.”

  1. I see where you are coming from with saying that the mobile phone is not being outfitted for people who have disabilities with the research that was done. However from my personal experience not only has the mobile device enhanced communications between people who have disabilities and those that don’t. There are so many apps available for people who have various intellectual disabilities, one of my favorite apps are to help those who suffer from autism.

    One day we had a customer come into the store and buy an ipad because she heard great things about the device. After purchase we sat there and went through the App Store to fine apps to put on the device. After a few weeks we get a letter saying how it has changed her life with her son, because he know can tell his mom what he wants.

    There are stories like this all over so to say that the only features are TTY and are not marketed isn’t covering the whole story. There was a commercial when the iPhone 4S came out that showcased the power of FaceTime and has a Mom talking to her deaf son via the FaceTime technology.

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