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We must utilise new technology to improve accessibility and choice for people with sight loss

We must utilise new technology to improve accessibility and choice for people with sight loss
3 min read

There are over two million people in the UK who live with sight loss and every day they face barriers to living full, independent lives.

The government’s recently-released National Disability Strategy sets out plans to build back better and fairer to all disabled people, and aims to make improvements in the everyday lives of disabled people.

While the government’s National Disability Strategy refers to tactile paving on station platforms, and tackling pavement parking, we need to go further if we are to make daily life fully accessible for those with sight loss.

The strategy itself refers little to those with sight loss, and companies can and should do so much more for these customers. Technology could potentially offer a new route for people with sight loss.

As someone who lives with sight loss themselves, and as the former chair and current vice-chair of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), I am particularly pleased to see new developments and companies making life more accessible for those with visual impairments.

Simple and cheap technology on cereal packets can help people with sight loss shop more independently

Developments like NaviLens from Kellogg’s, in partnership with RNIB, which involves simple and cheap technology – a printed code, a smartphone, and a free app – on cereal packets can make everyday life more accessible for people with sight loss so they can shop more independently and access information from a range of packaging.

This is a huge development for blind and partially sighted people, and I hope it is the start of technology companies and businesses utilising technology and prioritising technological developments to assist disabled people.

Research by the RNIB shows that nine in ten blind and partially-sighted people feel that information on food packaging is difficult or impossible to read. This can make shopping – an everyday, spontaneous and quick activity for so many of us – a real challenge, especially for those with specific dietary requirements.

Evaluation of the Kellogg’s pilot, by RNIB, showed that 97 per cent of participants agreed that they would like to see more of these accessibility features available on grocery packaging in the future.

It is exciting to see that cities, such as Barcelona, Madrid, and Murcia are already using this technology in their transport systems, making the cities easier to navigate for thousands of visually impaired citizens, and highlighting the many uses this technology can have. I hope it is the start of sharing best practice of this kind of technology and that there will be many more developments and models to follow.

More innovation needs to take place across companies to really improve accessibility and choice for blind and partially sighted people. If the government is serious and building back better, we must take this opportunity to go further, faster, and ensure sight loss is not a barrier to living a full, independent life.

 

Lord Low is a crossbench peer. 

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