This was a post on facebook:
Hi all, and I hope you don’t mind my post, but I am a passionate cyclist, but being completely blind, forced to be a Stoker on a tandem, and most of the time limited, completely dependent on others to pilot me… Which is why I have joined this group and exploring all options for virtual cycling. I rely on technology for most things in life now, which is why I am able to use Facebook, and accomplish most things online … But unfortunately, the zwift platform appears to have done nothing to accommodate visually impaired, blind users. I was a software engineer for 15 years, and know that the simple addition of audio tones to indicate being overtaken, or overtaking another rider, or sounds to indicate the start of descents or climbs and a facility to automate announcing power numbers could easily be implemented and configured. Search in the Internet, I have send another forums evidence that other blind people have been trying for over two years now to get some kind of commitment from Swift to begin to accommodate blind users… Nothing has been done, and so my post today is simply to ask if anybody is in a conversation with Zwift, customer support at any point, could you just try to advocate and encourage them to make amendments to stop excluding the blind community from the virtual cycling world! As you can imagine, in the absence of aTandem Pilot, the virtual Cycling world would be an ideal substitute for blind cyclist, but so far this isn’t happening. ￼￼ ￼ ￼ to ￼ ￼￼
Even more ideas:
Some ideas i can think of to hand under visual accessibility settings include.
Audio countdown of timer clock on start
Audio cue of distance to end point
Audio cue countdown to sprint/kom sections
Possibly a sliding scale pitch audio cue when getting in to draft/ losing draft.
Obviously audio cue over each map, garage, settings for bikes, wheels etc.
Maybe an average power watts/ watts per kg cue every 15 seconds.
As a software engineer of 15 years you would know that nothing is simple! An audio tone every time you’re overtaken would result in a wall of noise in some events. So there would be considerations like how many indications in a specified period, how to prioritize those over other audio, which indications take priority in which order when several apply, etc., etc. Simple ideas always spiral into a mess when people think “it’s simple”.
I think Mark’s point was that, in a bunch of 20+ people, a sound played whenever you’re overtaken, if not programmed in a complex way, could be going off every second. Even if only you are hearing it, it would be a constant sound that I would think wouldn’t be so helpful.
I’m for these type of additions, to be clear. Just agreeing that they would be quite complex, each one of them.
As far as I understand, currently, the whole platform is totally not accessible for blind users, so simply asking for basic audio cues for notifying the start, and of any selected route, and of course accessible way of selecting different routes.
After that, Adding notifications of remaining distance, configurable metrics during Royd, distinctive tone, every 10 km, for example, things like that can all be added… Obviously, the requirements will be different for a race scenario, compared to just completing a journey from a to B… Very difficult for me as a blind person to specify. Since currently I have absolutely zero access to the whole platform experience. Just prompting this is a discussion to trigger some inclusive design by the programmers of the platform.
I’m completely onboard with making Zwift accessible, for sure. And to be clear that some things would be complicated isn’t in any way a reason not to do them.
I wonder for example–with riding in a bunch, if not using distinct sounds but rather using a constant but varying tone would be the way to go. A friend’s wife is a visually impaired olympic biathlete. She shoots by using a system that uses tones to tell her if her gun is on-target. As I understand, it’s a constant tone, rising and falling in pitch and maybe modulation and such. So she learns what ‘on target’ sounds like, but also ‘too far left/right’, as well as ‘too far up/down’.
That sounds a lot like bunch riding. A tone that could tell you by pitch “there are riders behind you but a gap in front” and maybe varying in modulation to tell you the approximate size of the bunch behind and in front. It wouldn’t be a notification of a specific rider, but a good indicator of where you were overall.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m not against adding more support for any other riders. Just don’t want it treated as ‘simple’. So encourage anyone who wants to get involved to join the existing request for comments survey (Zwift Visually Impaired Athlete Survey [October 2022])
(*I’ve not heard this myself, as I ride with most of the audio off and some pointless radio/audiobook/music instead depending on the type of event)
To be clear, I don’t think anyone is talking about tones that would be heard by everyone and anyone. For my part at least, I’m talking about accessibility tools that could be turned on by visually impaired riders and heard only by them. (To keep with my analogy above, my friend’s wife uses a special rifle for her biathlons–no one is making biathletes without visual impairment use rifles that produce tones )