September 2020 — The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) recently released a comprehensive report on the impact of COVID-19 on people with visual disabilities in the following subject areas: healthcare, employment, social experiences, education, transportation, voting, access to food, meals, and supplies. In this study of 1,921 U.S. participants, 92% of participants indicated that they had access to technology. However, many participants expressed that this access to technology did not mean access to information. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of participants shared that they were concerned that visual information about COVID-19 on television was not accessible to them. As a result of needing vital information relating to COVID-10, 80% of participants indicated that they have increased their use of assistive technology apps such as Aira and Be My Eyes.
Participants had varying levels of agreement to “increased use of apps designed to connect people with visual impairments with sighted assistance.” Seventeen percent (17%) of female participants strongly agreed or agreed with this statement compared to only 9% of males. The statement also received higher agreement levels from those who were blind (20%) compared to those with low vision (6%). COVID-19 has also altered how some participants utilize visual-interpreting services. Some respondents shared that they use visual-interpreting services to verify the location of items delivered to their home and to read and enter CAPTCHA information on websites [p. 24]. Technology was used differently to create social connections between people with visual impairments. 808 participants shared that they contacted other people with vision disabilities in their personal network for COVID-19 support while 785 did not reach out to any organized group for support or support for information. Some of AFB recommendations are provided below:
- Any government agency distributing information about the coronavirus should provide equivalent levels of access to people who are visually impaired.
- Information presented in graphical form, such as maps and bar graphs need provide text equivalents.
- Product developers should incorporate digital accessibility into products as the products are initially being developed.
- Provision should be made for visual interpreting services, such as Aira and Be My Eyes, to ensure that people with limited financial resources can take advantage of these services.
The report also shares the most up-to-date and salient findings on technology use, technology tools used, app/programs used, and other concerns. This report is comprehensive in the six major subject matters. The survey was distributed across a diverse demographic of people with visual disabilities. Seventy-five percent (75%) of the respondents were White, 7% were Hispanic/LatinX, 6.7% were Black, 3% were Asian. The report is publicly available as are the early releases of results of the analysis. [Source: AFB]