South African Banking Accessibility Survey for blind and visually impaired persons

If you are living in South Africa and live with a visual impairment, you are no doubt one of those who might have received terrible service from your bank.


Or, just perhaps they might have amazed you with their accessibility of their products and/or services.


You may also recall the difficulty that I’ve had with FNB in the past and ABSA who joined them in ignoring our calls for action on fixing the inaccessibility of their services.  If you haven’t read those articles, let me just say that their attitude stinks and that FNB still dismissed my request for dialogue even though I have approached them as the representative of Blind SA, a national consumer organization of and for the blind.


Either way, we have finally launched the South African Banking Survey that you can now complete.


The purpose of this survey is to gain a greater understanding of the service needs of people with visual impairment who are making use of products and/or services provided by banks in South Africa.


We are seeking people who are blind or visually impaired (or their caregivers), who are willing to complete a few questions.


If you want to be contacted for assistance to complete the survey, please let us know on Facebook or on Twitter.  Optionally, please phone us on 0127533663.


Thank you to Unlocking Abilities (PTY) Ltd. for hosting the survey.




When deciding on which smartphone to purchase, it is always a good idea to do one’s homework prior to swiping your credit card. As visually impaired people we are fortunate enough to have a range of devices to choose from nowadays. When contemplating an Android handset, it is especially true that one should ensure that your new toy will ultimately live up to your expectations. What may perfectly fit the needs of one person, may not be suitable for someone else. It might be prudent to ask oneself the following questions prior to heading for the shops.

  • What do you intend using the device for? If you are a very basic user, only needing a phone for things like SMS, making phone calls and perhaps using a Twitter account, a low budget handset may very well suffice. However, if you wish to make use of the multitude of handy apps available from the Google Play Store, make sure that your choice will have the necessary specs to handle these apps. For example, when wanting to use an OCR app to translate digital images to text, a handset with a low MP capacity may not crack it.
  • A device with low memory specs is likely to leave you frustrated when having multiple apps opened simultaneously, as the phone may become unusably slow.
  • Ask around if any other visually impaired people are using the handset you are considering. Very importantly, once again, make sure what they are using the phone for and what their experience is. If you can’t track down a person using the intended handset, ask our good friend Google for reviews to see what other visually impaired folks have to say.
  • Determine which version of Android the handset is running. Some of the most useful accessibility features were only introduced in the later versions of Android.
  • Some folks hack their devices in order to install a custom ROM on it, often to obtain a later version of Android if it’s not available through the normal channels. This procedure is called rooting. Be aware though that upgrading a handset in this way may lead to disappointment, as the phone may run noticeably slower on a newer version, and, even worse, may cause problems with sound output.



When recently evaluating a low budget Android handset I experienced the following behavior, which will be disappointing to anyone using his / her handset for more than just the basics. The phone in question is the Vodafone Smart 4 Mini. Please note, this phone should not be confused with the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, which has much better specs.

  • The Vodafone Smart 4 Mini runs on Android 4.2. Although this is better than some other devices still running 4.1 or older, it does not offer the best user experience in terms of accessibility.
  • General operation of the phone is disappointingly slow, especially after opening a few apps.
  • The handset does not have a physical home key, which may pose a problem for some. Thus, the only physical buttons on the phone are the power and volume buttons.
  • The handset has a 3.1 MP camera, which, at best, will give less than ideal results when using an OCR app.
  • Many of the apps on the Play Store will not run on this device, due to its poor hardware specs, including a mere 512 MB RAM.
  • The quality of the loud speaker is rather disappointing.
  • Despite numerous attempts, removing and re-installing Brailleback, I simply could not get this accessibility tool to run on this device. This may have been specific to this phone, but it nonetheless left me disappointed, especially in view of the fact that Brailleback installed and worked first time, every time, on my Samsung Galaxy S4.

A quick demo of TapTapSee on Android


TapTapSee is designed to help the blind and visually impaired identify objects they encounter in their daily lives. Simply double tap the screen to take a photo of anything, at any angle, and hear the app speak the identification back to you.

(Note: Spoken identification requires Talkback to be turned on).

TapTapSee helps the blind and visually impaired become more independent in their day-to-day activities.

Continue reading A quick demo of TapTapSee on Android