Weekly Poll – COVID-19: Test and Protect App (Week beginning 24 August)
Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 24 August 2020, we asked a question about the NHS Test and Protect App.
Do you have any concerns about the usability and accessibility of the test and protect smartphone app?
- YES – 59% (51 respondents)
- NO – 41% (35 respondents)
Respondents identified the following main themes and key concerns. We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.
Respondents highlighted some of the necessary features that are required to ensure the app is accessible for disabled people. For people with visual impairments it is important to use a clear plain font, such as Arial and ensure a there is sufficient contrast between the text and background colours. Videos and sound clips can be enhanced with optional transcriptions or captions which are beneficial for people with hearing impairments. It Is also necessary for the app to be compatible with assistive technology, including screen readers, screen magnifiers, and speech recognition software. Users with cognitive impairments will benefit from a consistent layout to the app.
“It needs to be compatible with screen readers.”
“It must be compatible with mobile phone technology that allows use of enlarged text and the in-built magnifier feature so that visually impaired people can use it.”
“Visuals/subtitles so I can understand easily. A member of my family needs British Sign Language.”
“I’m fine with features as long as it’s simple to use and not over complicated.”
Information and Communication
In order for the public to use the app in the correct manner it is vital that clear guidance is available in a variety of accessible formats. At Disability Equality Scotland we host the Inclusive Communication Hub (www.inclusivecommunication.scot), a website dedicated to providing information and resources on how to communicate in an accessible manner to engage with a wider audience.
“Will the information be clear? This is especially important for people with learning disabilities.”
“Please produce clear instructions. A step-by-step guide on how to download it would be helpful for me.”
“Simplicity and simple language will help.”
At Disability Equality Scotland we also convert information into easy read, an accessible format that uses plain English and short sentences accompanied by supporting images. More information about our easy read service can be found on our website: www.easyread.scot
Some people are excluded from accessing the technology that is required to use the app. Excluded people can lack skills, confidence and motivation, along with having limited or no access to equipment and connectivity. Connecting Scotland (www.connecting.scot) is a Scottish Government programme set up in response to coronavirus. It provides iPads, Chromebooks and support to develop digital skills for people who are digitally excluded and on low incomes.
“I am concerned about how people with less tech capability will use the app.”
“I know many older people and disabled people who do not have these phones because of their overall cost and the fact most of them are ridiculously big and difficult to use!”
“Due to being disabled and on low income I cannot afford the extortionate prices of such “smartphones” or the even more extortionate cost of their contracts.”
“Do not have a Smartphone, so will not be able to use it, this applies to many, not just me.”
Some respondents questioned the effectiveness of the app in locations with weak mobile phone signal.
“What about people in rural communities? I often don’t get any signal and would this mean i am unable to see people near me?”
“Where I live, mobile phone coverage is extremely limited and so such so-called “contact tracing” by phone or any other related device will be pointless!”
A portion of respondents had concerns about the security of the app and the data that it will collect. It was suggested by one respondent that concerns can be alleviated through transparent practices to clarify what information is being collected and for what purpose.
“I am very concerned that personal information will be used and/or sold elsewhere.”
“I have some security concerns and what information the app is tracking. Please make this clear when people download the app.”
Engage with Disabled People
To ensure the app is accessible it is important to test it with disabled people. At Disability Equality Scotland we would encourage engagement with Access Panels; groups of volunteers who work together to improve access and wider social inclusion in their local communities. More information about Access Panels can be found on the Access Panel Network website: www.accesspanelnetwork.org.uk
“I have a visual impairment and only some apps are accessible with my phone. Involve disabled people from the beginning.”
“I think you need to bring in disabled people to test it.”
Disabled people identified several factors that must be considered to ensure the app is accessible. This includes making the app compatible with assistive technology and incorporating the principles of inclusive communication. Some people are digitally excluded due to a lack of skills and confidence with using smartphones. In addition, people are digitally excluded due to weak mobile signals, which is a particular issue for people living in remote areas. We strongly recommend continued engagement with disabled people and Access Panels to ensure the app can be accessible to as many people as possible.