Anyone who knows me knows that I am a braille girl. If braille – particularly contracted braille – is one of the accessible formats made available I will choose it every time.
So when Voiceye came along I thought to myself, “Wow, this is a great new option in the world of accessible document production!” There are several advantages to this product and I am excited to work for a company that can make Voiceye available to its customers. Mostly, though, I was initially just glad to know that those of us with print disabilities have another option when it comes to accessing information.
About a week ago I had an experience that changed my perspective on this innovative solution. Sadly, the time had come for me to pay my property taxes. This normally comes off of my mortgage payments but I had recently moved and so there was a deficit on my account that I had to cover.
When setting up my bills just prior to the move, I was thrilled (yes, I really was thrilled!) to learn that I could receive bills from my city of residence in the format of my choice. As you can likely guess, I chose braille. Unfortunately, the wheels of municipal red tape turn slowly, and so my request for braille was not processed in time for me to receive my first bill – or my second, for that matter – in braille. I didn’t know this, so after taking a picture of it with a scanning app on my iPhone and discovering that it was my property tax bill, I simply lumped it in with a pile of other papers. After a few days I still hadn’t received my braille bill and the payment due date was fast approaching. By “fast approaching” I mean that the payment was due the next day. To add to the time crunch, bill payments can take up to 24 hours to be processed, so I was told that if I was paying through my bank and didn’t pay the bill by 8 pm on the day before it was due, I would have to pay late fees. I had just over three hours to sort this out.
At this point I was really regretting my complacent assumption that my braille bill would arrive on time, especially because I ought to have known better! So I scanned each item in my stack of papers in search of my property tax bill. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) scanning apps are an excellent resource, but I quickly realized two things while I was scanning my personal and confidential information. First, if you have a large pile of papers to go through it can become very time-consuming. Sometimes you scan the back of the page – both sides generally look the same to me – and sometimes the initial scan isn’t very clear. Second, once I found the right bill I could not be completely certain that the account number would be scanned accurately. Since I still had to set up online banking for this bill, the exact account number was critical. Otherwise I would end up paying someone else’s property taxes!
I knew that the only way to be sure I paid the right bill and paid it on time was to ask a friend to read the account number to me. Of course, this also means that my friend would now know exactly how much my property taxes are. I did it anyway, simply because I had no choice, but how many of you reading this would want to ask a friend or family member to assist you with something as basic and necessary as paying bills? Like me, I would guess that you’d only do so if you had no other option. It was in this moment of frustration that it occurred to me how incredibly useful the Voiceye barcode would be.
If my property tax bill had this 2D barcode affixed to the top right-hand corner, I could have located it faster and would have been able to pay the bill without assistance. Not only that, but I could have had access to the information in the alternate format of my choice thanks to my iPhone and refreshable braille display. This experience really made me appreciate the benefits of Voiceye!