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.