Accessibility May 29, 2021
Accessibility of Covid websites a challenge for persons with disability, new app aims to address gaps faced by blind people
From tips for staying safe to booking Covid vaccine slots, all the information to stay safe from Covid is available online. Yet most mobile apps and websites on Covid are inaccessible to disabled people. A new app called Audible Vision seeks to address the barriers faced by visually impaired people.
From shopping for groceries to booking a slot for the Covid vaccine, we all turn online to meet our basic needs. This is how the world has become since the Covid pandemic broke out. All the information we need to stay safe is available on mobile websites and apps. However, a majority of this information about Covid is inaccessible to persons with disability in many parts of the world.
A global survey published in early 2021 across nearly 200 countries has found that 89% of them have websites and mobile apps on Covid that do not adhere to international recognised accessibility guidelines making them inaccessible to disabled people.
Most government websites violate disability laws enacted in their countries. Many of the websites and mobile apps on Covid have major accessibility errors that pose significant barriers to disabled people. This means not everyone has equal access to information that can help them stay safe or access a booking for a Covid vaccine.
Global campaign on accessibility bugs in Covid websites/apps
These critical accessibility gaps in Covid related websites and mobile apps are getting highlighted in the Covid Accessibility Bug Bounty campaign launched by BarrierBreak, a social enterprise and offshore leader in digital Accessibility. It calls upon people around the world to test mobile apps and websites related to Covid for accessibility bugs and report them.
The Covid Accessibility Bug Bounty campaign is an ongoing initiative of BarrierBreak and is getting a huge response. You can be a part of it too! Put your accessibility testing skills to use and report a bug by clicking here.
Unequal access to Covid websites affects disabled people
Among the disabled community, the challenges faced by visually impaired people in accessing information or Covid vaccine slots on websites and mobile apps are even higher. The World Health Organisation estimates that there are 253 million visually impaired people in the world. Thirty-six million are blind. Most visually impaired people are dependent on their friends and family to help them accomplish simple daily tasks. Given how dependent they are on touch, they are even more vulnerable to the Covid virus. This makes it critical that they have access to information regarding safety tips and vaccines.
“It is unrealistic to think that someone will always be around 24×7 to assist them”, points out Aadhar Bhalinge, who has high myopia and is well aware of the challenges blind and low vision people are facing in accessing information about the Covid virus and vaccines. This led him to start working on a companion app for blind people called Audible Vision. This is a mobile app that aims to help visually impaired people perform their daily activities independently.
Aadhar is also the 2012 winner of m2Work, an online challenge sponsored by World Bank and Nokia. “It was not difficult to imagine the struggles that the blind and severely visually impaired community need to face in day to day life and this is a strong motivation to create a positive impact for this community”, he adds.
Covid accessibility bugs & visually impaired people
With Audible Vision, Aadhar seeks to empower the visually disabled community by leveraging accessible mobile technology and artificial intelligence to help them to be independent. More importantly it aims to keep bind and low vision people safe from the Covid virus with features like mask detector and crowd detector.
Audible Vision app will assist visually impaired people in performing some of the daily chores on their own and help them stay safe during the pandemic through mask and crowd detection. The app is built on Artificial intelligence technology and has a very simple and intuitive voice driven UI interface for ease of operation. This app for the visually impaired community will be first to integrate Pandemic Safety feature in it. In current pandemic situation, it is even more challenging for the community people to know if their surrounding is safe. Hence we have built two modes to keep them safe in these challenging times.– Aadhar Bhalinge, Developer, Audible Vision App
Audible Vision apps aims to be a one stop shop to handle routine activities like identify product names or names or nearby shops. It will also detect the expiry date of products. More importantly it seeks to protect visually impaired people from Covid. The voice commands driven navigation and audible feedback of the results also make it easy to use.
Find out more about it’s features:
Another important accessibility feature in the app is language Bhalinge and his team plan to offer support in Hindi and other Indian languages which is critical for blind and low vision users in India as many of them use mobiles in native languages.
The app is currently in development phase. The early public beta release can be downloaded here. In the first phase Audible Vision app will be launched on Android later this year and this will mainly cover users from developing and under developed countries in Asia and Africa.
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