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Visually impaired people are signing petitions addressed to food delivery apps. Here is why

According to a study published by The Lancet Global Health journal, as many as 8.8 million people in India were found to be blind in 2015 and another 47.7 million people had moderate and severe vision impairment.

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As an essential service during the Covid-19 lockdown, food delivery services were a boon to those who don’t know how to cook even though concerns over safety and hygiene came as a hindrance. However, for 29-year-old visually impaired banker Aziz Minat, the challenges to order food went beyond the pandemic.

Minat, who stays alone in Ahmedabad, often relied upon food delivery apps during the pandemic. However, he found it next to impossible to manoeuvre through their interface.

“Usually, visually challenged people use screen readers to access phones and laptops. It is a software that reads out the stuff for us which is on the screen. The problem with Swiggy is that it is not compatible with the screen reader. If you are clicking on one restaurant, other is being opened and it gets tough. Another issue was that the names of the restaurant and dishes were not readout,” Minat told the indianexpress.com.

Earlier this year in February, Minat had started a Change.org petition requesting Zomato to improve the app in order to make it more accessible for people with visual impairment. After getting a positive response from the company in a month, he started a similar petition asking Swiggy to do the same in June.

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However, there are hundreds like Minat who are facing difficulties in accessing mobile applications.

After nearly two months, Swiggy replied that they had looked into the issue and it was “under consideration”. While Minat felt the response could have been more prompt, he is optimistic on the first step being taken.

A Swiggy spokesperson said the firm was working on viable changes that would make online ordering on the app accessible for all users. “Everyone should be able to access and enjoy Swiggy. We have been working on viable changes that will make online ordering on the Swiggy accessible for all users. We are committed to this goal and should have an update soon,” the spokesperson said.

According to a study published by The Lancet Global Health journal, as many as 8.8 million people in India were found to be blind in 2015 and another 47.7 million people had moderate and severe vision impairment.

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However, there are hundreds like Minat who are facing difficulties in accessing mobile applications. Hiren B Kavaiya, a 27-year-old bank employee, said most of the available popular apps lacked features for visually impaired people.

“I use an app called StarMaker, which is used to record songs and music but it is very difficult to access all by myself as it is not compatible with the screen reader,” Kavaiya told the indianexpress.com.

Kavaiya’s remarks were echoed by Jeegar Pithva. “If an app we use is compatible with the screen reader, it is only by accident that it is made accessible,” Pithva said.

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The 27-year-old is often on a lookout to find apps that are compatible with a screen reader but is hardly satisfied. “Accessibility should be treated as a top priority. Just like apps are being encrypted for security issues for protective data,” Pithva said.

Fond of online trading and stockbroking, Pithva feels disappointed when he is forced to ask for help while using the apps. “I have stopped using applications that I can’t access on my own and look for alternatives,” says the Vadodara-based banker. Swiggy, BigBasket, Grofers, Paytm and even Flipkart are among the many apps Pithva has deleted due to their low accessibility.

Indianexpress.com reached out to Swiggy for a comment but did not receive one till the time of publishing this report.

First published on: 24-09-2020 at 10:00:11 am
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