Apps Un-COVID

Three cheers for geeks and coders! Helping us live App-ily ever after.

I App-reciate and App-laud all the geeks and coders who had to switch gears to help get businesses and services online during Covid. Lockdowns forced with sign-ups, isolation bred innovation and, as stressful as it was, reluctant tech users were launched into cyberspace.

20/20, as the number promised, gave us all clarity into our priorities and fragilities. Focus magnified our values of family and friendships, the privilege of employment and being able to access healthy food and medicine. Our cognisance of the needs of those without work, food or family, was highlighted. Community projects sprung up and all sorts of people got involved in sorts of ways to help others survive and thrive.

Excuse the play on words, but for me, it was an eye-opener and a real blinder at the same time. Many businesses upped their online security, updated Apps and launched new products in a hurry and, unknowingly left a bunch of us stranded or excluded.

Whilst I am not equipped to ‘fight for rights’, I do want to gently uncover a gap that broadened during COVID.

Gaining ground

The smartphone revolution and online shopping is an absolute gift to the visually impaired and other vulnerable non-drivers who know how to use their in-pocket technology. No need for transport arranging, sighted guides or complicated waiting games amidst schedules of loved ones. It’s all there… on your phone… a gift …which we can sometimes open. Sometimes all the goodies are in the cart, but the ‘checkout ‘ button is playing hide-and-seek with the Screen Reader, which is not as fun as I made it sound. It’s pretty frustrating because it is so close to being brilliant!

The gap

I was signing up for a global disability conference where they were going to discuss Digital Inclusion. Well, Murphy’s law, there was a pop-up and I ended up putting in my details etc when I got a congratulations message to say I just signed up for a Truworths Account!  Hilarious! I was aiming to get up-to-date information, and I got up to date fashion trends…and a voucher I still may need to use.

I had to laugh, but at the end of the day, it is just not lekker (nice) to be excluded because of a sighted person’s blindness. It is not purposefully cruel, just a lack of awareness which, fortunately, is more curable than eye diseases. There are so many clever App developers and forward-thinking designers who study UI and UX that suits 75% of the intended clients perfectly.

Awareness for inclusion of people with dyslexia, colour blindness, third language users, seniors and technophobes, will increase digital customers and make the shopping experience a satisfying pleasure. This is where I am aiming to be part of the solution, by increasing awareness of how landmarking, clear, logical iconising and colour coding can increase the ease of access particularly for those who are slowly losing sight.

Words like inclusion, diversity, UI/UX are very nice to have in a vision statement but are not easy to implement without a bunch of people with varying perspectives giving honest feedback. It is sometimes difficult to give this feedback in a kind understanding way… when your Uber couldn’t find you because the banking App could not read the edit field for replenishing your chosen data bundle. A seemingly small coding problem that literally leaves you out in the cold, blind and abandoned an not even being able to see who to ask for help, so you implement the latest motivational podcast that possibly chewed up your data. Self-soothing, “I’m ok, I am here, I am breathing, I can be calm…I love Apps…which need fixing…perhaps someone will pay me to help them find the break…if I can close the cookie policy!

If I was your mom describing the above story, you may have an App-perplexy! When the story gets close to home, the energy for fixing these details will be there; or, if you are grateful that you were not me, then you’ll get it…and I’ll be grateful that you are grateful.

Accessibility, to some, is like a swear word, conjuring up images of money bags and gaudy lines spoiling the aesthetic nuance of the chosen palette. I get where designers are coming from, but in this modern time, there are so many clever ways to organise information in a way that the function is best achieved, with visual pleasures along the way.

So, computer science bofs, remember that you are the seniors of the future, your eyesight will change with age (unless you are doing eye exercises every day…someone create an App for that please…call it something clever, ‘an App-pill a day ). So I App-peal to you, to design visual inclusion in from the start, so it’s not a fight when your loved one or you need access.

Three cheers for geeks and coders! Helping us live App-ily ever after.

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