‘Accessibility’ is often seen as an overhead or an inconvenience, that the technical work required is too complex and offers little in the way of tangible ROI. This kind of thinking views Accessibility merely as a tick box product feature, when in fact Accessibility ought to be approached as a development mindset. Good customer service is about inclusion and universal ease of use – and this is absolutely the case for the taxi industry. We need to think about the different needs of all of our passengers and how we can make the task of ordering and using a taxi as easy as possible for people of differing needs. 

There’re many myths and misconceptions around the topic of accessibility in technology. In this article, I’m going to debunk many of these and help you understand just how important it is to offer an inclusive user experience to your passengers by way of advanced accessibility options for using your passenger app. I’ll conclude by sharing the thinking and functionality of Accessibility on the new iCabbi Passenger App, something we are very proud of and excited to bring to your customers. 

What is Accessibility?

Accessibility is by definition “the quality of being easy to understand”. In more technological terms, it means that you are making sure your application and all its available features are usable for 100% of your potential audience. This includes people with physical, sensory or other impairments. 

Examples of impairments that may prevent people from using your app fully or even at all include:  

  • Vision (color blindness, blindness, visual impairment)
  • Restricted physical or motor skills
  • Literacy (dyslexia) 
  • Or even linguistic exclusion (if the app is not available in a minority’s main language)

Promoting Accessibility is about problem solving – finding out what part of your app prevents certain users from using it effectively and creating options and workarounds that overcome these barriers. For example, giving users the option to change the font size on their app to best suit their level of vision. 

False assumptions about Accessibility 

Businesses often excuse their lack of investment in Accessibility by claiming that it only affects a very small number of people, but this is a totally false assumption. According to The World Bank, 15% of the world’s population has some type of disability – that’s 1 in every 7 people. Think about how many people you know with a special need related to ageing, an acquired injury be it permanent or temporary, having a physical or sensory disability or a medical condition. 

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Another common excuse from corporations not to be accessible is it takes time and is too complex to handle on a daily basis for the development phase. Another false assumption. A lot of tools are made available by the main OS providers (Apple, Google…) to ease the accessibility implementation. Here are a few examples: Voice Over, Voice Control, Dynamic Type, etc… All of these features come out of the box from these providers, it is just a matter of thinking about Accessibility from the start of the product development process and integrating it as a business mindset.

Benefits of Accessibility for Taxi Fleets 

Theory is great – but how does it reflect on the taxi industry? How does being accessible benefit both users and fleets?

As with all industries, and maybe taxi more than others,  Accessibility needs to be at the center of customer experience. All types of people need to have access to the basic need that is transportation.  As you know, wheelchair vehicles are an important component of a taxi fleet, and it’s likely you’ve put measures in place to encourage drivers with such vehicles to come work for you so that you can offer taxi services to people with restricted mobility. In today’s technological age, this kind of inclusion now needs to reflect on the digital experience of passengers. Indeed, providing a Passenger App or Web Booker as an alternative to the traditional call a cab already expands your accessibility by making it easier for people who are deaf or have a hearing impairment to book a taxi with your company. Now, you need to extend your accessibility awareness further to consider how people can be restricted/assisted by  your technology. 

There are some immediately obvious benefits to you as a fleet owner. 

  • You get access to a bigger pool of customers because you are making it easy for more people to book and ride with you. 
  • You’ll build a loyal customer base of people who previously struggled to independently arrange transport for themselves.
  • Reaching this wider pool of customers is helped by the USP that Advanced Accessibility offers you. Aside from the new iCabbi Passenger App, investment in Accessibility has not been common across the taxi passenger app market, including large ride-hail providers. So, offering Accessibility gives you an edge on your competitors. 
  • Being accessible and inclusive is also important for your taxi company brand. Most taxi companies are deeply rooted in their local areas and committed to their community – sound like you, right? Being inclusive and accessible is an important way to support your community. 
  • Offering enhanced Accessibility will help open doors to lucrative contracts in the Non-Emergency Medical Transportation market. Governments and medical/healthcare providers are increasingly interested in digitisation in order to streamline their operations and ultimately reduce costs. It’s a big pro if the taxi contractor offers fully-accessible platforms for their passengers, some of whom will often have special needs. The Medical transportation worldwide market is expected to represent £7.5m by the end of 2025. Who said accessibility cannot be profitable?

Benefits of Accessibility to your passengers 

Providing a service that is accessible helps people with disabilities with multiple social issues. It can provide them autonomy so they don’t need to rely on anyone or tied to a schedule, they can go as they want. In some cases, it can help them economically and socially. By providing Accessibility you can truly help to improve people’s quality of life. 

Accessibility on the new iCabbi Passenger App 

At iCabbi, we understood the importance of Accessibility for the taxi industry before anyone else on the market. We are proud and honoured to make Accessibility a market differentiator for our new Passenger app. No other Passenger App offers the level of Accessibility that the iCabbi app does and we’re delighted to be able to help our customers help their customers to have a better passenger experience. 

Our app redesign (which you can read more about here) includes many Accessibility features for your passengers. Let’s take a look. 

Dark Mode

We’re the only taxi/ride-hailing app on the market to have a fully supported Dark Mode. Uber and Lyft are still working on it as we write this article. It’s known that Dark Mode helps enhance contrasts, which helps users with certain vision impairments. It also helps reduce  battery consumption, so it’s a win-win for the whole audience.   

We put the user in control of their app by relying on their phone preference to show Dark Mode or not. Some users would rather stay on the Light Mode. This may simply be a personal preference, or again may be due to Accessibility needs. Dark Mode can, for instance, present difficulties for astigmatic users by creating a halenation effect. This relates to how light is taken in by the lens of the eye, with certain colour combinations causing blurriness or strain. And as it turns out about 50% of people are astigmatic  – so while Dark Mode can be very useful for certain types of vision impairment, it may in fact hinder others. Being Accessible is all about providing choice. 

Increase text visibility

Based again on the user’s preference, the design of the app will adapt to all sizes of font. We also decided to make only the primary information visible on the screen. In the example below, we have made the ETA, Vehicle Type, and Fare available, hiding the vehicle icons, which are not necessary for the understanding of the trip offer. Prioritising screen space this way allows the primary information to be displayed in large format to help vision impaired users. 

Voice over and Voice control

In the new version of the app, we also introduced improved functionality for Screen Readers and Voice Control technologies. By adding understandable and appropriate accessibility labels for every action available in the app, we allow visually impaired users to have an understanding of what is presented to them through the screen reader tool available natively in every OS. 

Accessibility labels can also be used to help users with restricted motor skills navigate through the app by sending commands using only their voice.  

Conclusion

To sum up, we decided that Accessibility would not be just a feature but an iCabbi mindset. We implemented Accessibility through uniformity and consistency across the iOS and Android app. And we decided that more than a feature, Accessibility would be in the definition of done for each feature going live on the app. Because, sometimes, being first on the market means thinking and taking care of others.