Visually impaired people in Hong Kong are struggling to get hold of crucial information about the coronavirus because half of the city’s major Chinese-language news organisations do not have accessible smartphone apps, a local disability group has said. With more than 2.9 million people infected worldwide, including 1,037 locally, an investigation by Hong Kong Blind Union revealed Covid-19’s “disproportionate” impact on the 2,000 visually challenged residents the non-governmental organisation represents. Coronavirus outbreak makes life even tougher for Hong Kong’s disabled The group reviewed the mobile applications of 10 news corporations in the city between April 6 and April 21, ranking their accessibility on a scale from zero to two across seven metrics, including whether apps allowed users to change the font size or the display screen’s colour contrast. Five of those surveyed received a score below one and were judged inaccessible by the NGO, with TVB News at the bottom of the pile with 0.67 marks. RTHK News topped the chart by scoring full marks in all seven categories, followed by the government’s Information Services Department’s app with 1.57 marks and Commercial Radio with 1.43. Jason Ho Ka-leung, vice-president of the union, said the deficiencies of the news apps had been exposed by the epidemic. “Like other people, the visually impaired also care about the news, such as confirmed infections and where to purchase key protective items such as masks and sanitation products,” he said. “The poor design of some news apps has hindered the visually impaired’s ability to receive important information.” Ho explained that visually disabled people often required enlarged text or an audio function. “Others may think we can still rely on radio or television for the information, but actually detailed information about the epidemic is usually in text,” he said. Citing one example, the activist said he had received queries from members who found it difficult to access and understand an article about soap’s effectiveness in killing the virus. “The government should bring forward legislation to ensure the provision of accessible information to all, and take the lead in revamping its own news app to make it more accessible,” he said. “Other news organisations also have the responsibility to take care of the needs of visually impaired people.” In a reply, TVB said it reviewed its news app from time to time and would implement upgrades “where appropriate”. The Equal Opportunities Commission, the city’s equality watchdog, expressed concern over the report and warned it would be illegal under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance to “apply a requirement or condition equally to everyone” when it might have a disproportionate effect on those who are disabled. The Labour and Welfare Bureau said the government had provided guidance to the public and private sectors, such as through accessibility handbooks for web and mobile apps, and recognised good practices through industry awards.