Uber Accessibility

Uber: Blind and Visually Impaired Riders

The Challenge

Blind and visually impaired people face a substantial transportation challenge. Ridesharing services like Uber are potentially transformative solutions, but Uber’s services don’t work very well for people with visual impairments.

The Approach

I designed a foundational research project consisting of traditional and experimental user research methods: shadowing, interviews, usability tests, and a method I developed called “participant phonography.” I wanted to develop insights into users’ pain points with Uber in particular, but also their transportation and mobility experiences more broadly, so that I could recommend solutions that addressed their goals and needs.

Methods

I used traditional User Experience research methods, such as interviews and ride alongs in Ubers, public transportation, and paratransit. I also developed a co-creation method for making sound recordings of participants’ worlds, in order to understand how sound can be used as part of a transportation design.

Key Learnings and Recommendations

Uber’s app is fundamentally not designed with a blind user’s experience in mind. There are problems in accessibility coding and blind users do not have access to the full range of information and experiences as sighted riders. I recommended

  • Rigorous testing of the app with accessibility features enabled, to ensure everything has been properly coded for VoiceOver/TalkBack.
  • Developing relationships with local organizations that serve blind people to conduct usability tests with users who are blind
  • Coding particular parts of the blind user experience differently from what is on the screen to ensure that blind riders have access to the same information as their sighted counterparts
For a sighted rider, this screen provides all the necessary information: you can see the current location of the car, its estimated arrival time, and its real-time progress en route. However, a rider who is blind will only get an estimated arrival time, which is not enough information to make decisions about how to find the car and when they may need to cancel the ride.

Impact

I created a prioritized set of recommendations to serve as the roadmap for future improvements to the blind and visually impaired user’s experience of Ubers app and services. These included easy fixes to items that were badly coded for screen readers, suggestions about how to provide necessary information to blind riders, and research topics about the discriminatory practices of drivers. Uber is in the process of implementing these recommendations.