Smartpost parcel lockers are now also accessible to people with visual impairments

During the quarantine, the use of post machines turned from a convenient service into an inevitable necessity. Contactless sending and receiving of parcels at postal machines ensured public safety and efficiency when delivering purchases or other important items. However, for the blind and partially sighted, it became not a solution, but an additional headache.

During the pandemic, all life took place through post machines, it became a necessity and a daily routine. But they were not adapted for the visually impaired. Most post machines are controlled by touch screens that do not have tactile buttons or beeps. In order to use the postal machines, the help of another person was needed,” says V. Gendvilas.

People with visual impairments can and want to live independent lives. For example, special apps allow them to freely use smartphones and computers. In this way, visually impaired and blind people can independently kkeep up with the news, communicate, create, shop, pay taxes or take care of other necessary matters.

However, until now, visually impaired people could only send or receive parcels through couriers and postmen, as the post machines were not adapted for them. The logistics company “Itella” took this into account and decided to update the Smartpost parcel lockers.

Smartpost development manager Vytautas Kalesevičius says that the goal of the post machine network is to make sending and receiving parcels convenient and accessible to everyone. According to the Lithuanian Union of the Blind and Visually Impaired, there are a total of about 150,000 visually impaired people in Lithuania. About 30,000 people have severe visual impairments. This is a significant part of society, so it is important to look for solutions that facilitate the use of parcel lockers.

“First of all, we asked the Lithuanian Union of the Blind and Visually Impaired to evaluate the usability of the Smartpost website for people with visual impairments. It is important that people can clearly and easily navigate the website, find out the information of interest, and reserve the required postal stamp section. After receiving the comments, we started correcting the shortcomings”, says V. Kalesevičius.

Computers and telephones are important companions in the lives of the blind and partially sighted. Technology makes these devices adaptable and comfortable to use. For this, programs are used that read aloud the text on the screen, can also tell the content of pictures. This requires the site to be programmed properly, for example all illustrations should have an alt text attribute that describes what the image depicts, then a screen reader can tell a person if the image is just an illustration or perhaps contains important information.

After evaluating the Smartpost self-service website, the next step was to customize the parcel lockers themselves. They do not use touch screens, here each compartment of the package has its own lock, so you only need to find and unlock your door. Until now, door numbers were marked with numbers, but now all doors are numbered and in Braille, so visually impaired people can independently find the parcel section they need.

V. Gendvilas, a representative of the Lithuanian Union of the Blind and Visually Impaired, singles out another advantage: “Since all Smartpost post machines are located inside shopping centers, it provides an additional sense of security when picking up a parcel.” Picking up a package indoors, where there are cameras and people around, is calmer than doing it outdoors. Although this security experience is more of an emotional argument, it is also significant.”

“Although we use the word disability when we talk about visual impairment, the blind and partially sighted are actually extremely powerful. They overcome such challenges every day that the viewers do not even think about. I hope that this update of the parcel lockers will eliminate at least one challenge and allow us to live even smarter and simpler”, says Vytautas Kalesevičius, Smartpost’s parcel lockers development manager.

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