Invisible barriers and double strollers
When I hear the word “barrier free,” I immediately think of facilities that have wheelchair-accessible restrooms or elevators somewhere in the building, but I never really thought about it when I would go out on my own.
However, when I took the train with my children in a double stroller and transferred from the JR Line to the Keio Line at Shinjuku Station, I realized firsthand how difficult these barriers were. The buggy I was pushing around weighed more than 10 kilograms, and with my two infants, it added up to 30. That made it almost impossible for me to lift it up the stairs. In other words, I cannot go on a day out with my children unless every route I take is “completely barrier free.”
So then, I would look up a barrier free route that I can pass through, but sometimes things don’t go according to plan; like the elevator halfway to the destination is “out of service” or something of that sort. Quite the stress.
Until I went out with my baby carriage, I never imagined how much trouble it would be not being able to use the elevator. It’s disheartening when I can’t go to places I planned to visit.
What makes a service disabled friendly?
December 3 is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Japan’s Basic Act for Persons with Disabilities designates December 3 to 9 as the “Persons with Disabilities Week.” During this week, many events are held mainly by local governments to educate people about the welfare of the disabled. You may have seen posters and slogans for these events.
Today, in honor of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I would like for us to think about services that are disabled friendly.
PayPay, as a payment service provider, offers its services through a smartphone app. This means that barrier free measures, such as installing ramps and elevators in stores, are unrelated to PayPay’s business.
Now, let’s think about smartphones. Are they accessible to users with disabilities? What about the PayPay app? Is it easy to use? If you start thinking about these questions, you realize that it’s hard to imagine how disabled people utilize smartphones and what kind of inconveniences and obstacles they face in using them.
martphones are equipped with accessibility features that allow people who are visually and hearing impaired to use them comfortably. I used to wonder what “Accessibility” was in the settings menu but never really used it or even opened it before. But this time, I found out that it had many features, like text-to-speech (VoiceOver), screen magnification, and sound recognition. It was an epiphany for me to realize that with these features users with disabilities can use their phones smoothly, as well as the fact that accessibility features are standard in smartphones.
What I noticed after using VoiceOver for the first time
Can blind people, for example, easily use the PayPay app if they use the accessibility features on their phone? When I enabled VoiceOver, it read out in order the selected text on the screen. It was convenient, but when I turned on the feature, it required special gestures, so I couldn’t operate my phone like I usually do.
For example, when I tried to close an app I was using and then open the PayPay app—which is something I always do without even thinking about it—it took me about five minutes to finally launch the app. Or when I tried to use VoiceOver on the PayPay app, there was so much information on the screen that I couldn’t gather as much information as I could with my eyes.
Of course, it was partly due to my unfamiliarity with the feature, but I couldn’t properly select the buttons or menus I wanted to operate, and icons and menus were simply read out as “buttons.” I also couldn’t find out the information contained in the image.
When you use mobile apps to make a payment, there may be no physical barriers. But when asked whether the PayPay app is designed so that blind people can pay with ease, or whether there are means in the world that allows a smooth payment experience for the visually impaired? My answer to these questions is unfortunately no. I believe there is much room for growth.
PayPay has been working to improve the app’s accessibility to make the service convenient and easy to use for everyone. So far, we have added the functions to enlarge the letters and adjust the font size. We also changed the colors of links and buttons to improve the contrast ratio. Plus, we’ve been testing the accessibility of the PayPay app to see whether people can operate it with ease using VoiceOver.
PayPay’s journey to improve its app accessibility has just begun, but I hope that little by little we will be able to provide a service that is friendly and easy for everyone to use.