The Optimist Citizen

This visually challenged bank employee is making online food ordering accessible, one app at a time.

Read how Aziz Minnat is persuading major food aggregators like Swiggy and Zomato to change their ways; and make themselves more user-friendly for the non-disabled community, the visually challenged, in particular.

The Boom of Online Services

Whether it be travelling from one place to another, purchasing books, or having the prospect of dining in, all have been made easy by revolutionary startups/apps in the past few years. Due to the fear of COVID-19, more and more people are going online as it undeniably sounds like the safest option. Everything is just one click away, or at least that’s what we’re told all the time. It’s hard to imagine how one can survive in a pandemic hit world without relevant apps. As we find it a lot unrealistic to imagine, a sufficiently big population still suffers this problem. Many of these apps that have become an integral part of daily lives are not well accessible for people with disabilities. The mission to start the amends has increased its purpose at a time when everything has been digitised. This is what Aziz Minnat from Ahmedabad is trying to achieve.

Importance of Screen readers 

Aziz, a visually challenged bank employee, lives independently in Ahmedabad. He, like everyone else, made himself well equipped with technology as it evolved. Moving online actually came as a boon during times of Covid-19 which restricted the movement of people greatly. Applications these days are now enabled with screen readers. A screen reader is a form of assistive technology that renders text and image into audio or braille format. This makes accessing a screen’s content possible for people with visual impairments or learning disabilities. 

Many mobile applications have been actively vigorous in upgrading their screen readers for the user’s benefit. However, several apps still need to make themselves adept with the requisite. More interestingly, a few of these apps have to do something with a basic necessity – food.

The Issue of Accessibility

Ordering food online has seen an unprecedented boom. Millions of people now refrain from going out to a place to eat and prefer getting it delivered at homes. Aziz is no different. Since Aziz lives alone, he depends on the food-delivery apps more often. At the beginning of this year, Aziz noticed difficulty ordering food online with Zomato. After a few attempts, he realised that the screen readers were not functioning fully. They were not compatible with the cursor and hence, did not read the labels right that were present in the app’s graphics. Even making calls regarding food delivery became a cumbersome task.

Aziz’s Fight

Seeing the unfairness of the situation, Aziz decided to speak out against the injustice. He filed for a petition against Zomato in February of last year. He used his social capital to great benefit. With the help of his friends and Change.org, he was able to file a petition. The petition asked Zomato to make its app more accessible and inclusive for people with disability. The petition gained more than 14000 signatures. He was pleasantly surprised to see such a positive response. Following that, Zomato reached out to him at the beginning of March and assured him to make changes, which they did. They removed all the glitches regarding screen readers and the app is now functioning properly. This would make ordering online food more inclusive.

The Fight Continues

Aziz later discovered that Swiggy was creating similar glitches with the screen reader. He decided to file a petition against Swiggy in June riding on the success of his previous campaign. The response has been, again, unanimously positive. More than 19000 people signed the petition. Swiggy did respond after a couple of months, but they haven’t made any significant changes as promised. The campaign is still active as Aziz hopes to get as many signatures as possible. Maybe that will lead Swiggy to take the right steps. This will highly benefit people with disabilities who make up a big fraction of the customer base.

Aziz, a foodie and an ardent cricket fan, hopes that Swiggy would soon follow the steps of Zomato. He feels nobody should feel exempt from using an application on the smartphone, especially in times like these. He believes that Swiggy could follow basic web accessibility guidelines like those used by Google Pay, The Hindu, Uber, BBC, as a prototype.

Diksha Singh Parihar

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