I am person with visually impaired (totally blind) and I would like to share my experience on the accessibility of apps and websites that I use as part of my day-to-day activities. As part of this, I would like to discuss top 10 things that are really affecting and bothering me very much because of inaccessibility of those apps and websites. The top 10 things that I am going to discuss today are not only the issues for me but also these are the issues for whole community. Before writing this article, I spoke to many visually impaired friends and most of them are having the same views as I have.
As you know, most of the things(such as buying the product, ordering the food, booking flight tickets, booking cab, net banking, booking doctor appointment, paying utility bills, reading news, getting updated with the knowledge, watching movies, listening to music, applying for the insurance claims, updating insurance cards, tracking the status of parcel, booking the bus/train, mobile recharges, booking gas, paying life insurance/health insurance/term insurance premiums, catching-up with friends and family in the online meeting platforms, sharing the feelings in the social networking sites like Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, whats app, online education, applying for the job, applying for housing loan, checking our PF amount, filing the income tax, booking hotels/resorts, apply for the passport, and much more..) can be done in the online itself. Making the things in the online is very convenient and easy for the users as the works get done without stepping out from our house. In addition, pandemic made people to use the online mode with force as people believe that online mode is very safe. Since most of the things are happening in the online, imagine what if these websites/applications are not accessible for the people with disabilities like me? if these websites/applications are not accessible for the people with disabilities like me then it is going to create huge barrier for us. As a result, people with disabilities would not be independent enough in accessing the same. Therefore, it is very critical to make the applications/website accessible for the people with disabilities. let us look at top 10 things that are really affecting and bothering me while accessing this information digitally.
Top 10 inaccessible things that make my life frustrating
- I need to pay utility bills (such as electricity bills, mobile recharges, d2h, and so on.) on the monthly basis and many people use Paytm app to do the same. Unfortunately, Paytm is not great in terms of its accessibility. The biggest challenge with the Paytm app is that the page keeps getting refreshed/updated while accessing the elements with the screen reader and as a result, the focus gets lost. This makes the experience horrible for the assistive technology users in accessing and paying the utility bills. Although there is an alternative accessible app called google pay, my question is why don’t paytm team make their app and website accessible for me and my community? Even though community raise many concerns about its accessibility, they did not really care. I stopped using paytm app all together. Another aspect is that am forced to use google pay here despite of good offers/deals in the paytm. It is not fare that I cannot take the advantage of those deals and offers that paytm is providing. It is really discrimination
- I need to do certain financial transactions on the regular basis with the help of net banking. However, some of the bank websites are having image captcha to login to the sites. This image captchas makes us dependent to do the financial transactions and it’s very frustrating. To overcome this challenge, banking websites should provide alternatives (such as OTP logins, audio captchas, and so on.) to image captchas to provide equal experience for all the users
- I was recently trying to book the slot for the covid-19 vaccination in the cowin website but, I was unable to book slot for the vaccination due to its inaccessibility. Imagine if health related things are not accessible for people with disabilities, then we feel very insecure in the society. Government should take right measures to make such health-related thing accessible for all the users and it’s a fundamental right for the citizens. Anyways, I took vaccination from my company and my company arranged vaccination for me and my family and the process went very smooth, thanks to my employer!
- When my family is not around, and I want to order the food in the online then I need to look for the food apps. one of the popular food apps is Zomato. Unfortunately, Zomato is not great in terms of its accessibility. The main challenge with Zomato is that screen reader users would not be able to understand that there are offers because all those offers are in the images format. Similarly, there are lot of unlabelled buttons (increment/decrement quantity) in the app and as a result, screen reader users would not be able to understand the purpose of those buttons. Although I can order the food in the Zomato, it is kind of bumpy!
- I sometimes need to buy household things or electronic items for my family and myself. To buy those things, I open online shopping app called flip cart app and try to access the app with my screen reader. Unfortunately, category names (such as men, women, electronic, kids, kitchen and so on.) are not read for me as those categories are represented in the image format. This kind of experience makes me very annoying and makes us dependent to buy the things. Although there is an alternative accessible website which is amazon, my question is why don’t flipcart team make their app and website accessible? I am forced to use amazon here despite of good offers/deals in the flipcart. It is not fare that I cannot take the advantage of those deals and offers that flipcart is providing. It is really discrimination
- When I want to go to hotel/resort for chill out then I open app called goibibo to book the hotels. However, I cannot even find search feature to look for the hotels in this app with my screen reader and it is highly inaccessible. I really get frustrated with these inaccessible applications because I cannot book hotel rooms by myself
- When I want to travel around the country then I must book the tickets in the online applications. However, most of those online apps (such as goibibo, make my trip) are not accessible because I cannot even select from and to city and calendar controls with my screen readers.
- When I want to send some food or some gift from my home to my friend’s home then I need to use app called donzo. To send the things from my home to my friend’s home, we need to search for my friend’s address in the donzo app. However, this core search functionality itself is not accessible with my screen reader and as a result, I am dependent to perform this task. When there is dependency then my frustration becomes doubled
- When I want to have entertainment then I want to open Aha app. Aha is one of the entertainment apps and many new movies get released in this app. However, I cannot access Aha app at all with my screen reader and it is highly inaccessible. The basic things such as playing videos and browsing the movie names itself are not accessible with my screen reader and it is really a big problem. Although there is an alternative accessible app called prime video, my question is that why don’t Aha team make their app accessible? Things are different from Aha app to amazon prime video and vice-versa. The simple example could be the movie that I want to watch in the Aha app is not available in the amazon prime video. Even though I am forced to use amazon prime video here, I cannot watch my favourite movie, is not it frustrating?
- When I want to understand what is going on in the society then I want to read the E-news. While reading the news in the online with my screen reader, lots of adds(advertisements) interrupt my reading. As a result, I give-up reading the news completely.
To conclude this, making the websites/applications accessible is very important thing for the people with disabilities like me. failing to do so makes the people with disabilities at disadvantage.