Mobile network operator Safaricom has become the first company in Kenya to redesign its site ground-up targeting to break the barriers of communication by being fully accessible to the blind and Visually Impaired Persons.
The website www.safaricom.co.ke, which cost way over Ksh 15m in developing alone (minus consultancy fees) is in line with the firm’s vision of Transforming Lives and is expected to bridge the digital divide among the visually impaired.
Speaking during the launch, Safaricom’s Director of Corporate Affairs Nzioka Waita said, “In Kenya today, there are more than 300,000 people who are visually impaired or blind, and can therefore not benefit from the wealth of information on the internet.”
He added, “According to the UN World Intellectual Property Organisation, only five per cent of all published works are currently available in formats accessible to the Visually Impaired Persons community. With this move, we are making it possible for our customers’ who suffer visual impairment access all Safaricom content, just like our sighted customers.”
Safaricom also wants its site to be most visited, to be a go-to site every morning and so the new website has been made easily accessible on Desktop, Mobile, Tablets and Feature Phones unlike the old one that had over 5,000 micropages. Users can visit the site for information and product offers such as PayBill numbers, Bonga points and even devices. Waita added that the firm’s eCommerce site will help buyers to access the product catalogue, compare and review handsets, check out deals and pay for their selected devices via M-PESA and go to their nearest Safaricom shops to pick them.
The new site will also drive customer engagement through share and comments functions across the website.
With over 30 people with disability among its staff, Safaricom has a broader inclusion agenda that focuses on persons with special needs and it seeks to be inclusive not only to its staff but also customers with special needs. Safaricom has been working on the new website for a year with consultations from its technical partner, Squad Digital and disability specialists inAble and the National Council of Persons with Disabilities.
inAble Executive Director, Irene Mbari- Kirika said: “Accessibility is an ongoing process because everything changes like a moving target. Technology changes, the needs of users change, and information providers also change. Therefore, as businesses engage in new designs, it is good business practice to engage in universal designs for Accessibility.”
“ inABLE is very excited about the partnership with Safaricom to make its current and future digital assets accessible,” she added.
The UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities which entered into force in 2008 requires that accessibility be taken into account in the design of new information technologies and systems. The new website has been certified to be fully accessible to persons with visual disabilities by the National Council of Persons with Disabilities.
Safaricom also launched a new initiative dubbed Open Your Eyes Kenya aimed at creating awareness about Visually Impaired Kenyans. The campaign aims to raise funds to help support kids with the disability across the country. Safaricom said for each single view of the video, it will donateKsh1 to support the visually impaired.