Mobile Financial Services for Visually Impaired End-Users Pilot Initiative
As part of its twin goals of promoting new payment systems and supporting inclusive development for persons with disabilities (PWD), USAID is working to identify and mitigate the implicit and explicit barriers to entry to economic enterprise, including those related to PWD. USAID is partnering with The Perkins School for the Blind and mobile network operators to focus on the visually impaired, within the context of discussing appropriate technology-based new payments systems.
The research focuses on Kenya, where 70–80 percent of the population moves money, sends remittances, and makes payments over mobile money transfer platforms. To the extent that mobile financial services (MFS) utilize sight-dependent text-based interfaces, visually impaired persons may be excluded from fully utilizing MFS. The Kenya Union of the Blind estimates that 1.4 percent of Kenya's current population, or 518,000 Kenyans, is visually impaired—representing lost economic activity brought on by the inability of the visually impaired to utilize fully the mobile-enabled conduit.
Integrating cost-effective adaptive technology into current systems could increase utilization of MFS by PWD, allowing visually impaired end-users the opportunity to take advantage of a full range of financial payments systems that forms an increasingly more prominent role in economic enterprise. Aubrey Webson, Director of Perkins’ International Programs, and Martin Kieti, Senior Consultant at the Perkins Institute’s Institutional Development Program, discussed how the pilot initiative will address these broader issues.