The QR Code has been widely used for a variety of purposes nowadays. They are widely seen in marketing, education, emergency services, healthcare, tourism, even in things you wouldn’t even think of. With endless possibilities of its functionality, it is no longer a question of the benefits of QR Codes for people with disabilities.
People with disabilities face difficulties when accessing information and services, which other people may take for granted. For instance, the visually impaired may find it difficult to read printed text. Or the hearing impaired may struggle understanding spoken words. Even disabilities like mobility impairments, cognitive impairments, and learning disabilities may also affect how a person can access information and services. In situations where information is presented in a format that can be limited in accessibility, these things can be taken into consideration. And this is where QR codes can help a lot.
QR Codes, or Quick Response Codes, can solve this problem. With just a scan from a smartphone, people, especially those with disabilities, can already access information or the service they want to avail. QR Codes are small, square-shaped, two-dimensional barcodes. These can hold information up to more than 7,000 numeric characters. The information stored in a QR Code can be accessed in just a scan, especially if the smartphone has a functioning QR scanner.
Once scanned, the users will be redirected to many locations in the internet. Or they will be able to access various files and digital content with the aid of assistive technology like screen readers or text-to-speech software. QR Codes, then, can be powerful tools. It increases accessibility and provides equal access to information and services for people in various walks of life.
Uses of QR Codes to Empower Persons with Disabilities
QR Codes provide equal chances to PWDs in accessing information. Basically, if a person has a smartphone and a working QR Code, that shouldn’t be a problem. They can already download, grab, or get online whatever content they need by just scanning the QR Codes with their phones. So how can PWDs maximize the benefits of this small, square-shaped barcode? Here are some of the ways:
Accessing printed materials
Unable to read texts properly? No worries. QR Codes can help people with visual impairments access information in printed materials like product label, instruction, and the like with just a scan. With the aid of assistive technology, the device can read the information contained within the code. This makes it easy for them to understand and work with the product or information they get.
Some spaces are just not easy to navigate, and what more for people who are disabled? Users can give it a scan and learn about information vital in navigating spaces. Examples are building layouts, emergency procedures, and other information. QR Codes are useful for people with mobility impairments, as they may need more information in knowing where to go.
Providing access to digital content
As QR Codes can hold up to more than 7,000 characters, it is possible for these codes to provide PWDs a variety of digital content. This includes videos, audio recordings, interactive tasks, and others.
Not only do QR Codes make every opportunity equal for PWDs. It can also provide information in many languages. This makes them a powerful tool for bridging the gap between language barriers.
Some PWDs may prefer autonomy in doing things, and even in accessing digital resources. QR Codes can help with this. They can provide easy access to information and some technological features to assist them instead. This will reduce the burden of asking other people for help and increase independence in accessing information.
QR Codes for Different Disabilities
QR Codes for people with disabilities is not a one-size-fits-all solution. But these can be used to address different impairments, in order for these people to work with the said barcode without exerting great efforts. So how do PWDs use QR Codes? Here are some of the ways:
For the visually-impaired. The information that the QR Codes hold can be accessed using technological aids like text-to-speech software or screen readers.
For the hearing-impaired. QR Codes makes it possible for people with hearing impairments to access audio contents like podcasts, music, or other audio recording. This feature can be maximized if the user has hearing aids or cochlear implants.
For people with physical disabilities. QR Codes can provide information about certain features in public spaces like wheelchair ramps, elevators, and restrooms. This enables people with physical disabilities to know their way around unfamiliar places without having to look for security guards or customer service for assistance.
For people with cognitive disabilities. People with cognitive disabilities can benefit from QR Codes through accessing visual aids and other tools that can help them understand difficult concepts, or follow multi-step processes. These contents can include images, videos, audios, and interactive activities.
For people with language barriers. QR Codes can also include multilingual ways to provide information. This makes it easier to understand these contents even if they were presented in a language that others do not usually use. This ensures that everyone gets easy access to information regardless of their language.
Potential Concerns and Risks
We would be lying if we say that there are no disadvantages in the PWDs’ use of QR Codes. Actually, there are some potential risks. These are the important things that a user must know before reaping the benefits of a QR Code:
Familiarity issues: Some PWDs may not be familiar with QR Codes. For this reason, the developers must take time to educate the users on how to access information and services through QR Codes. In addition, teach users how using these might make their tasks easier and give them more autonomy.
Devices: Some people may not have the devices. Or if they have one, these might not have features that can scan QR Codes. These should also be taken into consideration before making people use features like QR Codes.
Security Issues: Not all QR Codes are safe to access. Some may contain viruses like malware and other features that can access a user’s private information such as exact location, phone number, bank account, and the like. The developers also need to educate users what QR Codes and scanners they should trust before accessing information.
Future Trends and Predictions for QR Codes for People with Disabilities
In the near future, there will be more potential ways on how QR Codes can be used or maximized, particularly by people with disabilities. Here are five ways:
Increased adoption in public spaces. More public spaces may be able to include QR Codes and help users gain information about the place they are visiting, or assistance for accessibility features, and other salient features.
Integration with other technologies. QR Codes can also be mixed with other technological features like augmented reality, facial recognition, biometrics, and even Artificial Intelligence, making the experience more personalized and immersive for PWDs.
Customization for specific disabilities. While there are already customized uses of the QR Codes for different types of disabilities, these features can be enhanced to further meet their needs. This can range from providing audio descriptions for people with visual impairments to simplified language for people with cognitive problems.
Expansion of applications: QR Codes are already being used in a variety of settings like education, healthcare, emergency services, and others, and there will be more industries that will potentially find benefits from this barcode. This will help PWDs access this information without the need of other people’s assistance.
Improvements in accessibility features: Some accessibility features may be improved to suit the needs of PWDs such as size, color, readability, and the like.
QR Codes may be small, but they are revolutionary beyond our wildest imaginations. They can be used in a variety of ways, and can provide information and services as easy as a quick scan. Now, it has taken an inclusive approach as it not only caters to our usual users, but it has also made information accessible to persons with disabilities.