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Lifestyle & Leisure

Forecast made easier for the blind

Wednesday, 23rd January, 2019 4:30pm

A new service has launched meaning that the weather forecast will now be available for those experiencing sightloss. The National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) has collaborated with Met Éireann to provide access to weather forecasts for the almost 55,000 people experiencing sight loss.

According to Kevin Kelly, Head of Policy and Advocacy with the NCBI: “The introduction of the online accessible forecast will ensure that people who are blind and vision-impaired will have equal access to weather information for the first time in Ireland. Many people take for granted something like checking the forecast to plan their day accordingly. Before now, people who are blind and vision-impaired faced obstacles in accessing online forecasts due to the visual nature of their presentation.”

The new service, available on the Met Éireann website, will see people who are blind and vision-impaired being able to access both national and local forecasts, with a seven-day outlook and with links to daily forecasts, which can be broken down by the hour.

The service can be accessed using screenreaders and magnification software. Information is also provided about any weather warnings that are in operation.

Joanne Walker, Senior Meteorological Officer with Met Éireann, said: “As the leading provider of weather information and related services in the State, Met Éireann is committed to providing a range of high quality meteorological and related information to all members of the public. We are aware of our obligations to ensure, that as far as practicable, the contents of the communication are accessible to persons with a visual impairment to whom adaptive technology is available.

“I worked with our web developers, Fusio, on our new accessibility pages to ensure that Met Éireann’s national and regional weather forecasts, links to any weather warnings, and our localised seven-day hourly numerical weather prediction model forecast data are accessible on such user’s pcs and devices. We learned that there is a wide range of adaptive technologies available to suit the varying degrees of visual impairment. I worked with NCBI to ensure all ranges of this software can read the Accessible Forecast pages in a practical manner, and we are most grateful for their help,” she concluded.

“The ability to look up local weather conditions before you leave the house will allow people who are blind and vision-impaired to make very practical decisions like whether or not to take a coat or umbrella, or whether they are likely to encounter icy patches on the footpath as they go about their business which can be hazardous,” said Kevin Kelly.

NCBI advocate Darren Reed said: “This service means that during periods of bad weather, I will be able to independently assess the weather conditions before I make plans. During weather alerts, up until now, it was difficult to access info about the status of the weather in your locality, which meant I was relying on national forecasts on the radio, or other people to advise me of the forecast. I will now be able to make decisions for myself.”

The forecast can be accessed through the footer on the Met Éireann website, or by visiting: forecasts/accessible-forecast.

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