QR and Accessibility

What is a QR Code?

A QR or “Quick Response” code is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional barcode) first designed in 1994 for the automotive industry in Japan. A QR code consists of black squares arranged in a square grid on a white background, which can be read by an imaging device such as a camera, and processed using Reed–Solomon error correction until the image can be appropriately interpreted. The required data is then extracted from patterns that are present in both horizontal and vertical components of the image. The QR code system became popular outside the automotive industry due to its fast readability and greater storage capacity compared to standard barcodes. It is fairly common to find QR codes on different items that you buy, or on promotional leaflets, guide books or other marketing material. One of the main reasons for this is that the QR can provide access to a web address or online resource if the user simply “captures” the QR code using their smartphone, rather than having to manually enter a URL.

How can they help with accessibility?

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, QR codes provide access to web links and users can simply "capture" a QR code rather than having to manually enter the URL. They could be linked to all kinds of information such as a website, audio track, or a plain text document. In our solution we use this tool for labelling things, such as doors and other features, with the QR linking to a plain text document. The user can then read the document in their preferred method, whether through magnification or by using the text-to-speech function on their smartphone.

This can be applied in a number of ways in different locations, all with the purpose of providing access to information.

Example: The Museum

The museum has a number of exhibits in every room that are accompanied by text labels, dioramas, games, tactile experiences, and descriptors of the content and context for the benefit of visitors. Unfortunately, not all of these features are accessible for someone who is blind/partially sighted, but by adding a QR label at a uniform point on the exhibit the user can scan the QR and be given access to the information. This allows them to explore the exhibits more independently and in a way that is accessible. In addition, when the QR is scanned using BlindSquare then the user may be given optional information about their location and the layout of the room. This will further support their independent movement around the museum.

In the event that the exhibits are moved, and the directional information available via the QR and BlindSquare is no longer correct then this can be easily updated without the need to change the QR, avoiding the unnecessary expense of printing new signage. We would simply update the information associated with that QR image to reflect the changes to the layout or exhibit content.

The museum has a number of conference rooms and lecture spaces, so QR can also be linked to a calendar. When scanned it will provide access to the calendar and the user can check the events taking place in the room and make sure they are in the right place. 

BlindSquare QR’s can be used to provide more detailed information about a building too. If a QR is placed on a door to a meeting room then it is possible to customize the message from BlindSquare to provide the user with information about the room layout, room features, fire escape routes and more. If the user makes the choice, they can hear additional information by simply shaking their device when prompted. Directional information can also be provided using a QR as it will be at a fixed point facing in a set direction, so information about the surrounding area can be added and is again optional for the user to hear.

The use of QR for providing access can make a big difference for peopel who are blind/partially sighted, and other examples of where this could work are:

  • General Signage or Labelling e.g. toilets; fire exit; reception.
  • Restaurant Menus.
  • Study Notes.
  • Guide Books.
  • Information Leaflets.

The provision of information in an accessible form gives back control to people, helps enhance their experience of different environments, and reduces the reliance on other people. They can read through a menu and make a choice about what they want to eat; they can access study notes for a lecture and be better prepared to learn with their fellow students; they can find out more information about a local healthcare professional and the services they provide; they can know that they are about to enter the correct meeting room in the office.

QR codes can be used to link people to other types of information, such as audio recordings, or accessible video clips. In the case of the museum exhibit, the QR could link to an online video for an exhibit, with a British Sign Language translation, subtitles and an audio description to provide accessibility for Deaf British Sign Language users, people who have sight loss, and for people who prefer audio information over large bodies of text.

You can download some examples of QR codes we have created by clicking the button following this paragraph.

Download Examples

Good Examples

Rosyth Chiropractic Clinic Reception

Image is a QR Code for Rosyth Chiropractic Clinic alongside a clinic logo and a stick man with cane.

Here is an example QR for Rosyth Chiropractic Clinic. We have programmed it so that when the QR is scanned with a generic QR reader the user will be directed to information about Rosyth Chiropractic Clinic, contained in a simple Google Document. When scanned with BlindSquare the user is given information about where they are, and can choose to access further information about the room layout. Try scanning the QR using your phone/smart device. Now try scanning it using the reader on BlindSquare or BlindSquare Event.

School Classroom

Image of QR code for a School Classroom. Scan with generic QR reader or BlindSquare for information.

When scanned, this QR will direct you to a Google document that gives information about a classroom layout. When scanned with BlindSquare, you will also be given information about the layout. However, the user can decide whether to hear information about the room layout or not. This is useful in situations where the user scans a QR label and finds that it is not the correct room, or that they already know the layout and do not wish to hear more information.

Disabled Access Toilet

Image shows a QR code for a Disabled Access Toilet. Scan for further information.

This QR links to a Google Document that gives you information about the layout of a Disabled Access Toilet. When scanned with BlindSquare, this information is presented in two tiers, with the user given the choice to hear information about the toilet layout by simply shaking their phone vertically.

Give it a try with your phone QR reader, and then with the QR reader on BlindSquare or BlindSquare Event. We would love to know what you think and any places where you would like this type of labeling to be installed, so please get in touch be clicking the button below. You can reach us by contact form; email; or by telephone.

Contact Us

Example: What's on the menu?

Scenario 1

Two friends, Barry and Clive, decide that they would like to head out for a meal at a new restaurant called “Curry House” one Friday night in their local town. Barry is blind and has only 2% useful vision, and he makes use of voiceover functions on his smartphone for reading email, texts, and other information. They arrive at Curry House and take a seat. Barry asks the waiter if they have any copies of the menu in Braille, and they do not, and say that it is something they will look into in the future. Clive offers to read through the menu with Barry but Clive just thinks of a dish that he is familiar with and opts for a Chicken Korma with boiled rice, even though the Curry House has 30 or more different dishes to pick from. They both finish their meal and Barry leaves feeling full but disappointed that he did not make a more informed choice about what he ate.

Scenario 2

Barry and Clive have just been paid and decide to head out once again for a meal in their local town, and opt for “The Local”, which serves a wide range of different meals and isn’t too far to walk. They are greeted by a member of staff as they enter the restaurant and after establishing that Barry is blind, she asks if they would like a copy of their accessible menu, which is presented in clear print. The menu also has a QR code at a uniform point on each page that links to an online text only version of that particular menu page, and has been formatted with text-to-speech in mind. The Local has free WiFi and the phone signal is good so Barry is able to scan each QR and access the online document, using the voiceover function on his smartphone to read through the menu and decide what he would like to eat. This makes Barry feel more comfortable and empowered, and he chooses something that he has not tried before as the description of the meal sounded great. Barry and Clive have a lovely meal and decide that they will come again in the future.