Video Producer: Varsha Rani
Video Editor: Ashutosh Bhardwaj
I work at a public sector bank and I am 100 percent visually impaired. I rely on screen readers to access my phones, laptop, desktop and other things. I live alone in Ahmedabad and manage everything on my own.
Being a person with visual impairment, I often face issues in accessing mobile applications. I guess these mobile applications have made our lives easier but unfortunately, it hasn't helped me much since they are not entirely compatible with screen readers.
There are many people living in urban areas who are visually impaired. They rely on food delivery apps – and did so especially during the lockdown. When Uber Eats was taken over by Zomato, we realised that we do not have any other options.
One of my friends recommended that I should start a petition on Change.org. I started a petition in February 2020, asking these food delivery companies to make their applications compatible with screen readers, so that it's easier for us to access them.
In March, Zomato responded saying that they had made some changes to their application. After that, I noticed that it had indeed improved a lot.
Screen readers use swiping gestures and allow us to swipe and go to any menu. But screen reader is not compatible with Swiggy. Many a times, the names of the restaurants or dishes are not read out loud. Some icons were also not labelled. It caused a lot of confusion, which led me to file the petition.
Soon after Zomato, I reached out to other delivery apps as well. By September 2021, Swiggy also made their mobile application more accessible.
I posted a victory message on my petition a week back, when I saw that Swiggy had made their food ordering smoother.
'Accessibility is Not a Luxury But a Necessity'
This isn't just about food delivery applications like Zomato or Swiggy. There are many applications that are not accessible.
As of now, IRCTC has mid-level accessibility, thanks to advocacy by certain groups of people. But still, there are some glitches when you are looking for seats.
Flipkart also has some bugs. There are many unlabelled buttons on the home screen, the cursor compatibility is also something that needs to be fixed. It is almost how Swiggy used to be once upon a time.
"If you want to order something, you can only order by searching. For example, if there’s a deal being shown on my home screen, I won’t be able to read it because there are many unlabelled buttons and graphics."
With travel applications, you have to rely on someone to book your tickets. Accessibility is not even taken seriously by the government departments. This needs to be fixed, and the app developers also need to be sensitised.
People need to realise that accessibility is not a luxury but a necessity and it would help create a better and more inclusive world.
These two petitions gave me hope. There are thousands of applications coming in the market and it will take thousands of petitions to get them fixed.
So, rather than this approach, the Government of India should make a law, like the ones in the US and Canada, making accessibility mandatory. Failing which, they (app companies) should be penalised because a truly inclusive world will only be achieved if it reaches every last person.
(The author works in a public sector bank. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)