World Sight Day exists to encourage people globally to prioritise their eye care and global leaders to ensure that care is accessible, inclusive, and affordable for all. Half of the world’s population will have eye issues during their lifetime. This year, The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) aims to get 5 million pledges on their website from people to have their eyes tested. If you’re reading this today and are struggling to do so or have general concerns over your eyes, take IAPB’s advice and organise an eye test to look after your sight in the long term. Visit the IAPB to learn more about its mission and objectives concerning this day.
At Switchee, we see today as an opportunity to raise awareness of how far our industry still needs to go to cater to people affected by sight issues. Two million people (340,000 registered) live with sight loss in the UK and require access to vital products and services. As Switchee products are installed in more homes across the UK and globally, we acknowledge our responsibility to listen to the feedback of those with accessibility concerns and ensure we consistently review our devices and their partnering products for the improvements required. When it comes to Switchee thermostats in rented homes, this remains a primary focus for the remainder of this year and beyond. Owing to this continuous improvement, we have implemented some exciting features which we would love to share with you, our residents.
The latest version of the Switchee Resident mobile app (v.1.3) contains improvements that maximise its compatibility with the VoiceOver feature for Apple iOS phone users and TalkBack feature for Android phone users. These frameworks allow the phone to read out the user interface, enabling an app that fully supports them to be used without any need to look at the screen (more details on this below). After conducting research and testing with affected users into how our app should successfully work with these screen readers enabled, we have a solution that ensures blind or partially sighted residents can take control of their heating and hot water.
How to use the Switchee Resident app with these improvements:
1. Make sure that the screen reader feature VoiceOver is activated via the Accessibility settings of an iPhone or Talkback is activated in the Accessibility settings of an Android phone (see below).
Apple iOS Accessibility settings
Android Accessibility settings
2. Please ensure that the Switchee Resident app is downloaded/updated to the latest version from either the Apple App Store or Android Google Play Store. Once downloaded and opened, please check that the version number at the bottom of the app’s screens is v.1.3.3 (example below).
3. Once you have the relevant VoiceOver or TalkBack feature enabled on your smartphone device and the latest Switchee Resident app version downloaded and open, a voice will clearly read out each section of the UI and provide instruction when the cursor has landed on a button. Click here to see how the screen reader feature works on the Switchee Mobile app.
If you have never set up a mobile app account with Switchee, then you will need to follow the Sign Up route on the app to pair your smartphone device with your Switchee thermostat.
By contrast if you already use the Switchee Resident app, then once the app is updated and as long as you have VoiceOver or Talkback enabled for screen reading, the app’s screen reader improvements should already be present. The app will read out the current temperature in your home and will let you turn the temperature up and down and switch the hot water on and off.
See useful links on using the VoiceOver (Apple) and TalkBack (Android) features below for first time users.
These screenreader improvements aim to ensure that blind or partially sighted users can take control of their heating and hot water in their home using our Switchee Resident app.
We hope you agree that this is an exciting release and one that can make a material difference to improving the accessibility of heating control in rented homes. We look forward to obtaining resident feedback on this app release and commit to continually improving our services for Switchee stakeholders as we continue to grow.
If you are aware of partially sighted or blind residents who would be willing to help us improve this feature further and are an existing Switchee partner (housing associations or local authority), we'd love to hear from you.
- How to use VoiceOver for screen-reading on Apple iOS devices
- How to use VoiceOver for screen-reading on Apple iOS devices (Video)
- How to use TalkBack for screen-reading on Android devices
- How to use TalkBack for screen-reading on Android devices (Video)