Virtual Accessibility

In recent weeks and months, many of us have grown accustomed to engaging with the outside world almost entirely in a virtual manner, with respect to organising work meetings, attending conferences, and even having online health appointments and check-ups with the aid of telemedicine. While this previously under-utilised medium for communication as a central part of our “new normal” has many potential benefits, it is imperative that these virtual portals are accessible for everyone, particularly the visually impaired and blind community.

A poll conducted by Morning Consult and sponsored by the Better Medicare Alliance indicates that approximately half (52%) of American seniors (Greater than 60 years of age) are very comfortable with using telemedicine to receive healthcare1. This survey, which had more than 1000 participants, also shows that a staggering 91% of respondents, who are Medicare Advantage beneficiaries, are satisfied with the quality of telehealth provided, contradicting claims that people in the ageing demographic are hesitant to use technology2.

In fact, the contrary is the case, with many people living with age-related conditions, such as Age-related Macular Degeneration and many other retinal conditions availing of technology to support and promote their independent living. The recent and widespread application of telemedicine to maintain a stable line of communication between patient and clinician due to COVID-19 has been welcomed by many living with visual impairments and other conditions, as it is a more convenient and less stressful way of managing their health.

However, despite this willingness among people, particularly those in the ageing demographic, to engage with technology as outlined in these survey results, anecdotal evidence from RI’s patient member organisations indicates that many barriers exist for people living with partial or complete vision loss in this regard. Specifically, many online platforms don’t accommodate people living with partial or complete vision loss and their unique requisites which allow them to access online literature and information, or attend and engage effectively with online events and scheduled conferences, many of which are organised in their interest, due to overly complex control features and poorly explained instructions due to oversight.

To resolve these issues, a primary objective of the European Blind Union 2020 Action Plan is to address the urgent need for improved web accessibility and ensure that “every blind and partially sighted person has access to technologies that meet their information needs”2. The need for accessible electronic documents and platforms has never been more pressing and as a global community, we have a responsibility to raise awareness of these inequities so that we can be better informed and not become disheartened by the challenges of an inaccessible online world.

By taking action now, we can lay the framework for a much more inclusive virtual world which will be beneficial for all stakeholders and audiences involved.



  1. Better Medicare Alliance. POLL: Seniors Give Telehealth High Marks; Medicare Advantage Satisfaction Smashes New Record. Available at Accessed June 2020.
  2. Fierce Healthcare. Poll: Medicare Advantage members are taking to telehealth. Available at Accessed June 2020.
  3. European Blind Union. The EBU 2020 Action Plan. Strategic Action Plan. Available at Accessed June 2020.


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