How a simple app just made dining out a much easier experience for Hong Kong’s visually impaired

Fifty restaurants and eateries sign up to Tap My Dish, with food and health secretary urging others to follow

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2017, 8:08pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2017, 10:06pm

Hongkongers with visual impairments can now independently order their meals at select restaurants across the city, thanks to a new app released on Tuesday by the Hong Kong Blind Union.

The smartphone and tablet app, called Tap My Dish, lists restaurant menus and reads items aloud. It uses various font sizes and colours to assist those with limited vision.

Adelaide Cheuk, HKBU’s senior project officer, said it would stop users relying on wait staff or friends to order.

“Its a way for businesses to attract more people, and to help the restaurants to show their social responsibility,” she said.

About 50 businesses have partnered with the app so far, with the union hoping reach 500 by the end of the year.

“It’s really a groundbreaking app,” Kevin Chow, executive committee member of the HKBU, said.

“My memory is not that good and it is pretty annoying to ask others [to tell me] what is on the menu. Now I can look at the app to choose my favourite dish and see what I can afford.”

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In development since mid-2016, and funded through a HK$500,000 grant from the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, the app aims to service the more than 170,000 visually impaired people living in the city, as well as people with full vision.

“It’s a really helpful thing for us because the difficulty for a visually impaired person is that it’s quite difficult to get the menu,” Jacky Sze Yan-kit, assistant project officer at HKBU, said. “We believe visually impaired people do have the same rights as the people who are sighted,” she added.

Sze said it can be embarrassing for those without full vision to ask restaurant staff to explain the whole menu to them, and they inevitably would not be able to look through all of the items.

At Tuesday’s launch, Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man urged more businesses to sign up to the app.

“I hope a variety of restaurants can actively support this initiative, and help create an inclusive societal environment,” Ko said.