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Digital accessibility now more important than ever

Digital accessibility and support for people with sight loss is more important than ever during lockdown, says a blind campaigner.

Richard Zimbler, 36, from Welshpool, is calling for digital accessibility to be championed this month as part of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (May 21st) and reminding blind and partially sighted people across Wales that technology help and advice is still available at this time.

As lockdown continues, people are finding themselves more reliant on devices and digital communication than ever before.

But for the 121,000 blind and partially sighted people in Wales, being able to use apps, websites and devices is crucial to maintaining independence and quality of life, especially as the coronavirus crisis continues.

Many people with sight loss rely on online shopping for essentials, social media and websites for information, and online portals to book appointments and complete important tasks.

Most smartphones and tablets now come with built-in accessibility features like voice readers and magnifiers, and a range of technology solutions are available to help people with sight loss in day-to-day life. More devices and websites than ever are designed with accessibility in mind, but there is still room for improvement.

Thursday 21st May marks the ninth annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day. The day and aims to get people worldwide talking about digital access and inclusion for people with different disabilities.

Richard, who has Bardet-Biedl Syndrome said: “I had limited vision until I was 20 and lost my sight completely in January 2004. Since then I’ve been very interested in technology, for myself and other people with sight loss.

“I’ve got an iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Alexa and my laptop has a screen reader. Sometimes people don’t realise that blind and partially sighted people can use smartphones and computers with the help of accessibility features. But having access to these devices vastly improves my quality of life. They allow me to be independent.”

Richard also volunteers for RNIB’s Technology for Life service in Wales.  The Technology for Life team works with volunteers to ensure technology support is available for blind and partially sighted people across the UK via home visits and a telephone service.

At present, the service is limited to telephone support.

“If people are struggling with accessing technology during lockdown, there is still someone to contact,” continued Richard. “The Technology for Life team are here and ready to help, so get in touch!”

Hannah Rowlatt, RNIB’s Technology for Life Wales Co-Ordinator, said: “The conversations sparked by Global Accessibility Awareness Day are now more important than ever. Digital accessibility is not a ‘nice-to-have’. It is a crucial step towards equality for blind and partially sighted people everywhere.

“People with sight loss across Wales must be able to use devices, web-based services, content and other digital products with the same successful outcome as those without disabilities. We hope to help many more people make the most of technology through lockdown and beyond.”

To find out more about Technology for Life, contact the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 999 or email [email protected].