Advocating for Accessibility

I will hopefully have an opportunity to try out the upcoming Contour Next One meter soon. I have never tried a Bluetooth-enabled meter before, and one thing that really excites me about these devices is the potential for them to be totally accessible to people who are blind. So I was very disappointed when, upon launching the app, this was the first message I saw (or, rather, was read aloud by VoiceOver):

I’ve experienced plenty of inaccessible apps. But I’ve never experienced an app that has had this type of message. Turn accessibility features off? For those of us who use accessibility features, it’s not a choice. It’s a necessity. Turn accessibility features off and the device is no longer usable. I advocate regularly for accessible technology. Most of the “disability” of blindness comes from the fact that we live in a world that is entirely designed with the assumption that people will have good vision. And yet, I keep hoping that diabetes companies will be different, because of the fact that diabetes is a leading cause of visual impairment in adults, and yet time and time and time again products, apps, and other tools come out that are not accessible.

When I saw this message, my first instinct was to e-mail the company. And I will do that. But then I stopped. I have been e-mailing companies for the past 10 years with no change. It gets exhausting after a while. Strong blindness organizations such as the National Federation of the Blind have been advocating for accessible diabetes technology for 20 years with no change. Articles regarding the lack of insulin pump accessibility have been published 10-15 years ago with no change. Clearly, individual voices are not enough.

And yet, the diabetes community has a history of strong advocacy. So I’m wondering: what can those of us with visual impairments do to get a seat at the table? Are there others who are affected by visual impairment who would be interested in banding together in an international advocacy group of some sort? Are there business people or engineers here who have some insight into what the barriers are? I understand that making accessible hardware is one thing. But an app or a website is a different matter, and with pumps and CGMs moving towards apps and Android-based controllers, there is huge potential for accessibility there, if only these concerns could be heard and heeded early in the design process.

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I understand some of the tech barriers on the software side, Jen. They are not that high - more like an issue of conflicting priorities and resource allocation. I’d gladly discuss them with you or with a group if you get one together.

Of course, other people might be much better suited and more competent than me at the exercise:-)

Great idea Jen !

I’m partially color-blind, and amazed at how many games and screens don’t accommodate this. When I play cards or board games, that involve colors, I struggle unless we turn on bright lights, or I use a flashlight. (Candyland was particularly challenging, but the young kids have fun helping me out).
Recently I was on a work project that provided screen designs with circle icons to show status, using colors red, yellow, or green. I made the suggestion to use different symbols (triangle, circle, square) along with the colors, which was accepted. Such a simple change, but overlooked by folks that don’t have these challenges.

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So far, no interest in a group, at least not here. I asked my brother (who is a software engineer) yesterday what he knew about accessibility, and he said very little. I asked him what he learned about accessibility in school as part of his engineering degree, and he said nothing. It seems to me that this is the root of the problem. If engineers embraced accessibility the same way architects seem to, maybe there wouldn’t be such a problem. (Not to say accessibility in buildings is perfect—far from it—but at least most buildings have a basic level of accessibility, even if they aren’t outstanding.)

Thank you for making that type of suggestion! Often the changes needed are not big ones. It gets utterly exhausting advocating sometimes, though.

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