What barriers there are for blind people on the net

For blind people, the internet is often difficult to access. They are dependent on barrier-free websites or on appropriate software. Daniele Corciulo tells us in an interview what obstacles they still encounter in the online world. The 35-year-old accessibility consultant has been blind since birth and pleads for stricter laws and better training.

Daniele Corciulo is an eAccessibility expert at the University of Zurich.

Mr Corciulo, do you experience online shopping as helpful or as a nuisance? Daniele Corciulo: It would be helpful if it worked. Unfortunately, most of the time it doesn’t. When I shop in a shop, I have to rely on the sales staff. They ask me what I want. This means I miss out on seasonal products or special offers. I would find such information on an accessible website. Especially big things like a printer I would like to order online and have delivered to my home. Since I don’t drive, this would be convenient for me. What barriers do you encounter when you want to order groceries, for example? A few. Recently I ordered hash browns and minced meat. The input fields where you have to enter the quantity were not specified. So I entered 3 in the first and 30 in the second. That was exactly wrong. I could have invited half my neighbourhood to a Rösti. I can hardly return the goods in such cases. The traders are not very accommodating. Most of the time I have already unpacked a product. I only notice that I have received a wrong DVD when I play it. So you don’t know if you’ve ordered the right product until you receive it? Exactly. In the worst case, I can’t shop online at all. And when I do manage to complete the purchase process, mistakes often happen. That’s a pity, because online shopping has a lot of potential. Are public services more accessible? On the whole, yes. But there are big differences. I’m amazed, for example, that the IV still hasn’t managed to transmit its information digitally and in an accessible format. The public administration is also not yet as far along as it could be. What is your experience with news portals? Bad ones. They are not accessible. “20 Minuten”, for example, has just updated its app. For people with a visual impairment, it is now worse to use than before. Are companies not aware enough of the problem? There is a lack of sensitivity. I don’t think it’s bad will. Many think that it is not worth the effort. They are not aware that 1 in 5 people in Switzerland has a disability. They don’t realise that there is also a market there. What does it take for companies to invest more in e-accessibility? The commitment of society to create accessibility. And you have to adapt the laws. At the moment, there is no way to take legal action against private companies. Should politicians increase the pressure? Yes. Otherwise, not much will change. In the USA, where there are stricter laws, this seems to work. The modern information society is strongly digital. Do you sometimes feel excluded from it? I am a big gadget freak. I use all the technical tools there are. Recently I was able to play a video game on the Playstation for the first time in my life. It was a wow experience. Unfortunately, the opportunities offered by digitalisation are used far too little. If offers are not barrier-free, I feel excluded. Yes, that is the case. How confident are you that this will change substantially in the next few years? If I base my mood barometer on the video game, I am confident. If manufacturers succeed in developing accessible games, e-accessibility for other, simpler applications should be a cinch. It would be important to give more weight to accessible design in education. It should be taught and assessed as a separate subject.

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AUTHOR: Eveline Rutz

Eveline Rutz is a freelance journalist. She writes primarily about political, social and scientific topics. She wrote the article on behalf of the eCH association, which develops standards in the field of e-government - for efficient digital collaboration between public authorities, companies and private individuals.

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