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China Launches New National Standard for Internet Users with Visual Impairment

March 02, 2020

China on Sunday launched a new national standard for the development of barrier-free services on the internet, aiming to better serve the visually impaired population in the country.

33-year-old Zhao Cheng is among the 17.32 million visually impaired people in China. After he lost his eyesight 10 years ago in an accident, Zhao had to get used to living in darkness. But with the latest technology, he is able to send voice messages to his friends and listen to their replies through WeChat.

Over the past few years, more and more internet companies have started to step into barrier-free services for the disabled. According to incomplete statistics, by the end of 2019, more than 40 internet companies had set up departments in charge of barrier-free services in China.

Internet giants in China including Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent and iFLYTEK have all invested in research and development in the field of barrier-free access to information during the last decade, with successful products being put into use in special education schools and even performing art troupes for the disabled.

In recent years, Zhao has felt that internet applications on mobile phones are becoming more and more important and convenient.

With applications on his mobile phone, he can read, code and organize his finances. In addition, through the VoiceOver app on his Apple devices, he can shop online, hail a taxi, navigate with a map, and listen to audiobooks and music.

In the past few years, although companies have shown interest in developing barrier-free services for the disabled, without a national standard, the quality of the products cannot be guaranteed, according to professor Bu Jiajun from the college of software technology of Zhejiang University, the initiator of the national standard, and the deputy director of China's research center of information and barrier-free technology.

"We have always been thinking, how can we use technology to help overcome the physical disabilities of disabled people and help them overcome barriers to enjoy equal opportunities in health, education and work, and finally live a decent life," Bu said.

"Our national standard is synchronized with the universal international standard W3C," Bu said. "We try to maintain the highest level of compatibility."

46-year-old Chen Yan is a visually impaired piano tuner. Her life totally changed after she opened her online shop on Taobao in 2014 to provide piano tuning services together with another 40 visually impaired piano tuners.

"Internet use for the visually impaired population is still facing some technological challenges," said Bu, an AI scientist in this area for 12 years.

How to let users understand internet content, how to integrate and transmit content through sound and how users interact with the internet are the key issues in the future, he added.

Source: Xinhua