Idea of social network for visually impaired & the challenges

Visually impaired users represent a considerably large part of the Internet community who use online services such as e-mail services and chat with
friends using a messenger program. They also use mobile phone services but that is just limited to dialing or receiving a call and represents a narrow user group.

Such existing devices or services cater to very small percentage. Mobile phones are based on visual information which are very complex as well as not accessible to blind or visually impaired users and no special device dedicated to this user group is present currently.

People with visual difficulties:

  • May be color blind.
  • May be completely blind or partially sighted.
  • May suffer from disabilities preventing them from reading or comprehending text properly (for example dyslexia).
  • May not be able to read small text — a large segment of the population
    could be affected.

Lack of vision and opportunities are main reason behind their restricted participation in society. The need for such a mode of communication or platform for them to share their experiences, thoughts, articles, events, etc. related to their personal communication experience exists.

The study tells me that they do face a small degree of fear while using public transport, having no idea where they will be arriving. They feel very disconnected in this regard. To some extent students who are blind usually share audio recorded books and e-books. They use screen reader while operating a computer. They are quite comfortable in using QWERTY keyboard and can read and write in Braille but they prefer audio feedback than Braille. From their views, there ought to be some sort of audio feedback against any action.

In many web sites, CAPTCHA shuts down most of the accessibility options.
Blind people can work independently if given training through a proper
channel. More and more design interventions are being done for this niche.
People have come up with many concepts like Braille phones and different
technologies are being proposed look at simulating the “Braille on paper” on a dynamic media. To bring that technology in a small space of mobile phone is a considerable challenge and it is still at conceptual level.

There are some social communication portals for the blind people but are limited to maintaining blogs and profiles, adding friends to their profile, sharing articles. Nothing beyond that seems to exist. Famous social networking sites like Facebook, are not fully accessible to visually impaired users. To bring that whole experience of online social communication on to the space of mobile phone for visually impaired users would be interesting and promising as well.

Design scope:

  • The application would be fully accessible weather it is phone based or computer based. As mobile phones are more affordable nowadays and extremely portable, the application target platform could be the mobile phone.
  • Non traditional methods of navigation that can be effective in information flow and task behavior.
  • Sharing and communication would be first priority.
  • Major focus on eye-free interfaces.
  • Better text input method to mobile phones is something that needs to be plotted/mapped.
  • Better recreational and collaborative activities can be designed specially for blind people.

Challenges faced:

Dependency on sighted people in some cases like using public transport. There is lack of any medium for them to express themselves. They get very less input from visually dominated world.

Lack of vision, lack of opportunity and lack of confidence are main reasons for their restricted performance and limited participation in society. There are conflicts between how society looks at them and how they want the society to look at them.

  • Narrow user group.
  • Existing devices and services cater to very small percentage.
  • Devices are affordable but not accessible.

Visually impaired people and people with normal vision have very few personal things in common, because of mobility and visual constraints.

Addressing the social exclusion:

Blind and visually impaired persons do not enjoy as many facilities as their sighted counterparts.

Staggering Statistics:
Of the 37 million people across the globe who are blind, over 15 million are from India.

  • One out of every three blind people in the world lives in India- an estimated 15 million blind people live in India.
  • Every year, 3 million people develop cataracts in their eyes.
  • There are 2 million blind children in India. Only 5% of them receive any education.

“Speaking” mobile technology and Open Source is a great chance for blind & visually impaired people from all over the world to obtain affordable access to satellite navigation, communication, information, learning and local based services. This will open new opportunities for the job market and for participation in social networks and in society, especially for those from the poor countries.

Products for blind and visually impaired people are no longer special devices. We are addressing the sector of society which is least addressed. More and more design interventions are being done for this niche.