Informal Petition Calls for Accessible Home Appliances for People Who Are Blind, Low Vision

March 13, 2014.  A Call To Action was recently received from Gene Fleeman of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri.  This is a petition to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) asking them to incorporate accessibility into the development, design and manufacture of home appliances, such as ovens, refrigerators, etc. Everyone is encouraged to sign this petition as the topic is near and dear to the hearts of people in the COAT community. 

"Hi everyone,  I've started the petition "Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers: Incorporate voice technology, audio queues, and/or tactile buttons into your flat panel appliances to make them accessible to the blind and those with low vision." Thanks to 500 supporters, the petition is off to a good start. But to really make a statement to the Appliance Manufacturers of how important this issue is to those with sight impairment, I need your support to make the number of signatures to grow exponentially! Lets join together to make our voices heard.  Thank you. Will you take 30 seconds to sign it right now? Sign the petition  here. 

Here's why it's important:
I started this petition on Change.org, because of the perceived lack of demand, appliance manufacturers have been reluctant to build inexpensive voice/touch technology into their products, thereby making them inaccessible to the blind. There are approximately seven million blind or low-vision people living in the United States today, and that number is growing every day, due to causes ranging from birth defects, diabetes, to combat injuries, etc. We clean, do laundry, iron, sew, and travel independently. We are foodservice managers, attorneys, scientists and more. And yet, when it comes to operating our touch panel home appliances we are practically helpless. Why?, because appliance manufacturers refuse to incorporate inexpensive technology that already exists­ such as those used in smartphones and iPads that make their flat panel appliances accessible to the blind.

By including audio cues, speech output, or tactile buttons, manufacturers will reduce the likelihood that a blind or sighted person will inadvertently touch a spot on a panel and turn on a burner without knowing it, potentially causing a fire or serious personal injury. Without accessible technology being offered to consumers, people who were once able to cook and clean independently could well find themselves unable to live alone in their own homes.

But it doesn’t have to be this way! If manufacturers incorporate inexpensive audio and/or tactile technology into their products, they will make a huge difference in the safety of the blind and others as well as the ability of the blind to continue to lead their lives independently, while simultaneously gaining thousands, if not millions, of newly satisfied customers. This is good for blind people who will remain independent; good for manufacturers who will sell products that the blind can use and that are safer for all who buy them; and good for society, which will not be asked to help normally competent human beings live in assisted living or nursing facilities simply because new appliances do not have displays they can read.

By signing our petition, you will be showing your support and telling the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers to work in collaboration with the National Federation of the Blind to get their manufacturer members to incorporate these immeasurable improvements in the quality of life, convenience, and safety of the blind and those who are losing their vision.  Again thank you for your support, Gene Fleeman, Member, National Federation of the Blind."

Note:  Gene Fleeman St Roberts is a Board Member of The National Federation of the Blind of Missouri. For further information about the petition please contact him via Email.  

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