Apps Improve Accessibility for Low Vision Users

Low Vision User AppsAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 253 million people worldwide have some form of visual impairment. Many people with vision loss can often feel isolated from the world around them.

Major technology companies such as Facebook and Lyft recently introduced changes to their platforms with the goal of improving accessibility and making it easier for low-vision users to stay connected.

For years Facebook has utilized facial recognition technology to make it easier for users to tag friends in photos. Now coupled with enhanced software, visually-impaired users can utilize screen readers for a description of the photo, caption details, and information about which friends are pictured.

Facebook developers are also working to take their improvements one step further. The goal is to make the platform more interactive so visually-impaired users can ask questions about a photo for additional information.

Ride-sharing service Lyft is another platform looking to improve overall accessibility. The company launched a partnership with Aira to make it easier for those who have vision loss to request a ride. Aira is a platform that allows trained agents to virtually assist visually impaired users various tasks. Low vison users will receive a pair of glasses equipped with a special microphone and camera that allows them to connect with an Aira agent.

Once connected, the agent can aid the user in requesting a Lyft ride and relay important information including: the pick-up location, estimated price and driver’s name. Agents are also able to direct users to the pick-up location and track their ride to ensure they arrive at their requested destination safely.

Optometrists say these enhancements are revolutionizing the way those with low vision and vision loss connect with the world around them.

“We’ve come a long way. In the last five years, I would say that technology has really improved a lot for those who are visually impaired,” said Dr. Erin Kenny, chief of the William Feinbloom Vision Rehabilitation Center. “I also think it’s important for us as low-vision doctors to know what’s out there so that we can best help our patients.”

The Feinbloom Center located at The Eye Institute (TEI) provides various services to assist patients with visual impairments including: comprehensive vision evaluations, dispensing of low vision devices, and rehabilitative training.

For more information on the Feinbloom Center or to make an appointment, please call 215.276.6111.