Tinder doesn't cut it for the blind

Dating app for blind 'less superficial'

A dating app for blind people using short voice messages instead of flashy selfies has been developed in a tech hackathon.

Blind people face many challenges in their lives that the majority of the society cannot even comprehend. While poor employment opportunities may be one of the obvious side-effects of living in the world without sight, socialising and starting romantic relationships could be even more complicated.

The Royal London Society for Blind (RLSB) people has decided the time has come to find a way to help visually impaired people to improve both through the means of technology.

It invited developers to investigate how technology could help blind people to improve their dating opportunities, increase social interaction with their peers and reduce barriers for finding employment.

A dating-app, created during the two-day gathering that uses six-second voice clips to help a user assess prospective dating candidates, impressed the competition’s judging panel the most.

“We were inspired by RLSB's Kevin Satizabal who is blind and talked to us about his dating experiences - he said you fall in love with the voice first, there’s so much richness and intonation within a voice that gives clues to a person’s personality,” said a representative of the winning team.

“For us this seemed like a great way to connect all people, not just those with vision impairment.”

After finding initial matches based on the six-second clips, the users can talk in six-second memos. The more they talk, the more possibilities for enhancing the chat they unlock.

The RLSB is now working with the developers to run the idea by focus groups of young blind people to get their views on whether it will work for them. 

“We know from experience that with technological advances and developments comes increased independence and confidence for vision-impaired people,” said Tom Pey, the RLSB’s chief executive.

According to estimates the majority of vision impaired people fails to develop a positive nurturing relationship and nine out of ten affected with the loss of sight will not work for more than six months of their lives.

The hackathon was part of RLSB’s month long London without Limits festival – a series of sensory events, which aims to raise awareness of some of the challenges young blind people face on a daily basis.

Other ideas that came out of the hackathon included a community-led website/app that allows disabled people to share their stories of getting and having a job and provides other disabled peers with advice on job hunting and opportunities, an app that allows a user to retrace the steps of another, just using mobile devices and an app to help blind people arrive at a very specific destination in a safe and accessible way.

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