Today, technology has given us access to everything from the comfort of our homes. Whether it is booking tickets or ordering food for dining in, everything is just one click away. Furthermore, the fear of Covid-19 has driven more and more people to go online, considering that was one of the safest options. However, the transition for the visually challenged hasn't been that easy. Without relevant applications to support, people with disabilities have suffered quite a lot during the pandemic.
Simple things such as ordering food online became a massive challenge for visually impaired people. If an application didn't have options for voice command or was not compatible with the available screen-reader, it was impossible to navigate through the app. Screen-reader is a feature in most smartphones that reads out the text and image into audio on any given screen, as long as the screen is enabled for it.
Aziz Minat, a 30-year-old bank employee, who is 100 percent visually challenged and living in Ahmadabad on his own, like many others, relied on food delivery apps quite a bit when the pandemic struck. However, Aziz found it next to impossible to navigate through their interface. He discovered a central shadow area in Swiggy's app; screen-readers couldn't read out most of the app, thereby making it difficult to read menus, place orders, or track them. This gap made the platform almost entirely inaccessible for users like him who could not see the features.
A Path To Accessibility
Being tech-savvy and someone who prides himself on being self-reliant, Aziz decided to speak up to voice a struggle that many like him have been facing during the pandemic. In a battle to make the online space more disable-friendly, in June 2020, Aziz started a
requesting Change.org petitionSwiggy
to improve its applications interface. This move would make the application more accessible for visually impaired people.
Aziz ran a digital campaign that got the support of 28,000 people. "It was overwhelming to know that there are so many people who understand our struggle. When it comes to accessibility, the concern, getting acknowledgement of 27,000-28,000 people, can also make a huge difference. I am grateful to everyone who joined hands to make the world more accessible," said Aziz in an exclusive conversation with The Logical Indian.
With the help of his supporters, Aziz raised this concern through social media to bring attention to the problem. Swiggy soon took notice and responded to Aziz. In September 2020, Swiggy promised to take action. With his sheer commitment to the cause, Aziz followed up for a year and kept in touch with Sriharsha Majety, CEO of Swiggy and on September 17, 2021, Swiggy's application became accessible.
One Step Forward
Swiggy, after almost a year-long journey, has come out more robust and user-friendly than ever. Thanking all the people who supported him, Aziz said, "I am grateful to everyone who supported me on this journey." He added, "Swiggy has now made their food ordering accessible and a comparatively smooth experience. The latest upgrade has made it easy for the visually impaired to be more independent than ever. They have made reading the menu, adding things to the cart, tracking orders, and ordering food cart accessible by a screen reader. It gives me hope to know that together we can ask corporates to make their products inclusive and accessible."
Aziz also expressed his gratitude to Change.org's support throughout the process. Nida Hasan, Country Director, Change.org India, exclusively told The Logical Indian, "We are so incredibly proud of Aziz Minat for believing in his power to create a meaningful change. He has started an important conversation on accessibility and inclusivity for the differently-abled in India. I am glad that Swiggy listened to his voice and hope more brands will take a step in the direction of accessibility." Change.org celebrates Aziz's achievements and believes that each individual has the power to create meaningful change.
Beginning Of A Journey
This is not the end of Aziz's journey. He is just getting started to make bigger and better changes in order to make the world more accessible for everyone. Aziz believes that accessibility is not just limited to ramps and brails. It goes beyond just physical accessibility. "Our journey is not over. There are thousands of applications in India that are not accessible. There is a need for inclusive planning. Policymakers should devise a policy in a way that everything is made accessible for the disabled. Start-ups and other tech companies should be sensitised about accessibility, and laws to mandate the accessibility of these applications is something that is required," said Aziz.
While it is one application at a time, these small changes are a significant step in the direction of inclusivity in India, home to 20 percent of the world's visually impaired population. It is Aziz's hope that the world becomes a truly inclusive society one day, and nobody feels exempted from using technology in these times. The Logical Indian supports Aziz in his journey to change the world for the better and make it inclusive for all.