26 September 2023

More inclusive QR: Checking in for people with vision impairment

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Antonia O’Flaherty* says there are fresh calls for QR code check-in systems to be more accessible.

A Brisbane man is calling for the Queensland government’s check-in QR codes to be made more inclusive for people living with vision impairment.

Vision-impaired Brian Haupt lives independently, and with the requirement to check-in to businesses, restaurants, and venues, he says it is frustrating to have another person hold his free hand to show him where the check-in QR code is.

“The other option is to feel approximately where the sheet is and wave the phone around with the camera going until it pops up with the alert saying the QR code has been detected,” he said.

He suggests that tactile markers or braille could be used on the Check In Qld signs to highlight the location of the QR code so it can be more easily found and scanned.

“It would be easy to feel. Blind people go by touch, we can’t see things, our hands are our eyes,” Mr Haupt said.

“If we can touch it, we know it’s there, so if we can feel the sheet we can feel the tactile markers — whether it’s braille or dots.

“That’s how we know where the QR code is.”

Mr Haupt, owner of Groceries for Health, also runs the social media account #tipsfromablindman where he announced the idea, and is now selling tactile markers to interested businesses.

Vision Australia’s manager of government relations and advocacy, Chris Edwards, said the organisation was receiving “quite a number of calls and requests around the challenges of QR codes for people who are blind or low vision”.

“The two issues that people are talking about are: scanning independently and, if they can’t, people understanding within the shops about how to support a person to provide that,” Mr Edwards said.

“Laws say that there has to be an alternative method offered for people if they can’t do it themselves.”

Standard location, app update could be solutions

Mr Edwards said there were apps that could help people locate a QR code which made an audible alert, “but they don’t necessarily work with the service in Queensland or other apps … an option is that these could be built into an app”.

“There’s no standardisation around the placement of the sign,” he said.

“If people were confident it was to the right of the door or to the left … a standard way to do it, that would be great.

“As well as when you’re in restaurants and those sorts of places, to be able to have an alternative scanning point on the table is really useful because it’s really challenging for a blind person to feel confident while there’s a queue of people behind them.”

Mr Edwards said the idea of having something tactile to help people line up their phones could help.

“Having people think about how they could do that, whether it’s something simple like … tape around the QR code so someone can feel where it is, there’s probably lots of simple things where people can independently feel where the QR code is. Generally their phone talks to them,” he said.

Mr Edwards urged people to remember that if they saw a person having difficulty checking in, to recognise that it could be a challenge for people who were blind or had low vision.

“Don’t assume the support they need, just simply ask, ‘What support do you need?’ That’s more important,” he said.

In Queensland it is mandatory for many businesses to use the Check In Qld system, including for hospitality, shopping centres and supermarkets, beauty and personal care services, and venues allowing large crowds.

While it is “optional for customers to use the check-in app” themselves, patrons must provide their contact information to businesses for contact tracing by other means, or the owner-operators to use their business account on the app to enter the details.

App has accessibility options

The app is provided by the Department of Communities, Housing and Digital Economy and used by Queensland Health for contact tracing.

Queensland Health did not respond to questions, but a spokesperson told ABC Radio Brisbane to direct questions to the communities department.

A department spokesperson said the Check In Qld app was developed to be compatible with accessibility options available on most smartphones, such as increased font sizes and audio options.

“The business profile mode for the Check In Qld app has also been developed so that businesses can check in customers if they are unable to use the app due to age, disability or language barriers, and without the required technology or a mobile phone,” the spokesperson said.

“Under the Chief Health Officer’s restrictions on businesses, activities and undertakings direction, businesses are required to register guests, patrons, and staff members through the business profile mode of the Check In Qld app if a person is unable to access the app.”

*Antonia O’Flaherty is a digital reporter at ABC Radio Brisbane.

This article first appeared at abc.net.au.

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