I am a technology believer and great supporter of accessible technologies. Being a person with blindness, most of my daily activities highly depend on technology. My daily travel to office is not an exception.
I use Uber for my daily commute. Today morning when I have booked an Uber pass as usual the vehicle information screen has displayed on my phone. As I read it with VoiceOver after the vehicle information a strange message is read out by the screen reader. “Your rider may be hard of hearing”. OMG, how would be the ride? Rider being blind and the driver being hard-of-hearing. How do I communicate? Is this journey be challenging? Do I need to cancel the trip? Many questions popping up in my mind in that fraction of second.
Anxiety one side and a little nervousness on the other side, I decided to take the ride. I was carefully watching the ETA, nervousness increased in my mind and still a little confidence somewhere in my heart as the driver approaches my apartment. As soon as the ETA ticked 2 minutes I started stepping towards the lift. The driver have not called me until he reached the pick-up location. No challenge communicating so far.
My apartment watchman have located the vehicle, as he opened the rear door on the left side the driver asked “Is it Rakesh”. I have nodded my head in sign of agreement. If the profile picture of the rider can be updated on the app, even this barrier can be removed. As I got in the vehicle both of us have not spoken a single word. As most of the Indians who use these cab services know, we need to tell the exact building or streets as the driver approaches the destination. I am tensed as I can neither point to the office building nor can signal him the right direction. The driver is so professional as he could exactly locate and reach the destination. Needless to say he has driven with at most professionalism and by following all the traffic rules as far as my other senses can recognize.
I want to thank him personally while getting down but I don’t know even basics of Indian Sign Language. Any ways I can show my gratitude with a good rating and thanking him on the app. Most of us want to learn basics of some languages where we travel frequently but we never care to learn basics of sign language to communicate with those who have hard-of-hearing though many of them are in our near premises. The bill of the travel will automatically be deducted from my Paytm account and technology helps here. In the entire journey from the time I booked the vehicle to the time I stepped down technology has communicated breaking the barriers of a blind rider and hard-of-hearing person.
The reason I want to post this article is to let people know how technology plays an important role in the lives of people with disabilities and to strongly emphasize on the significance of accessibility in these applications. Only because the Uber app on my iPhone is accessible using voiceover this adventurous journey is comfortable. The journey of a blind rider is independent and the difficulty of the driver is known to the rider allowing them to communicate in the right channel. In my personal opinion if the rider has a disability letting the driver know about it may also increase the comfort. As far as I could remember, I have not observed any such information captured while registering as a rider on Uber.