Have you ever considered what it would be like to lose your sight or be partially sighted? Most of us take our eyesight for granted, and even those of us that wear glasses or lenses can still see perfectly with their help. But if you couldn’t or were to wake up one morning and not be able to see or have your vision so impaired you couldn’t see anything but dull, blurred shapes – what would happen? Sight loss is something that can happen to anyone at any age, some people are born with this disability, others become affected over time due to illness or an injury. Describing what it’s like to have a form of sight loss to a sighted person is really hard, just as it is equally hard to describe what it’s like to see for a sighted person.
I spent a day with a trainer from the RNIB last week and specialist utility meter engineers looking to get their workforces aligned to assist with partially sighted and blind customers during the smart meter roll out.
We learned was that there are about 2 million people in the UK registered as blind, and 97% of them actually have some residual vision, of the 3% who are totally blind, they don’t all read braille. The session began with being divided into small teams for a short quiz, with one member of the team being blindfolded. Reactions of the teams varied from laughter to panic and being uncomfortable with the new sensation and loss of sight. The teams then worked through the quiz, performing various functions to include all members and taking it in turns to experience both sides of losing your sight and needing guidance from others.
There are many tools, technologies and ways that sighted people and Companies can easily make a little extra effort to be more inclusive and make a big difference to others. The easiest and quickest way to make a difference with the written word is the use of large print. Use a good round font in a larger size of at least 16+ Verdana is particularly suitable in this size, but NOT Times Roman. Not all companies provide access to their information in a format that suits all customers and they could be losing out on 2 million extra customers in the UK alone, by not taking this basic need into consideration when designing their products, websites, app and the written word or relying on the customer to have special software, auxiliary aids or a carer in the home that can help them. Developments like Amazon Alexa and Google Home are moving quickly, but it is taking time for manufacturers and suppliers to enable the voice technology skills so that anyone can use the most natural interface of all ‘their voice’. Voice technology is moving so fast that it seems it won’t be long before Star Trek type technology is common place in all walks of life.
Other interesting facts we learnt are that only 5% of partially sighted or blind people have a guide dog, the leading contributor to sight loss is diabetes 1/20 affected and as diabetes diagnosis is rising, so is sight loss.
As part of the Governments UK smart meter roll out, every home will be offered smart meters (one for electricity and one for gas) and a handy in-home energy display to show you the status at any time of your energy consumption in pounds and pence or kilo watts, display your latest bill, help you budget and reduce expenditure, helping you keep bills under control if you are a credit customer or see how much credit you have left if you are a PAYG customer. We tried the Trio II Accessible in-home display (AIHD), which has large font, tactile buttons for easy interaction and text to speech on screens and navigation. The AIHD has been through many months of careful research, design and refinement in readiness for vulnerable customers that may need support in this area, and now carries the proud RNIB seal of approval and will be available later this year from many energy suppliers. The unit has been designed for anyone with an accessibility need, not just to support the blind and partially sighted.
The engineers all gave the device the thumbs up, not just from a partially sighted customer point of view, but for everyone as it was so better and well designed with great use of UI and colour than other devices they have historically installed. It could really help so many people beyond those it has been specifically designed for was the feeling, especially with the addition of optional wi-fi.
The AHID was recently showcased at the Project Inspire: Energy for All – Innovate for All report launch event on 29th January 2018 where it was extremely well received. The report revealed how smart technology and innovation can improve the lives of low-income and vulnerable energy customers, you can read more about it in our blog.
After a successful day spent with RNIB, the specialist engineers will be looking forward to the next stage of their training, dementia awareness.
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2 million people in the UK are registered as blind, 97% of them actually have some residual vision. Not all of the remaining 3% who are totally blind read braille.RNIB