NFC: The Powerhouse Technology for People with Vision Impairment

Wireless technologies have revolutionized how people with blindness and vision impairments get information. Near Field Communication is a powerhouse among wireless technologies. Here are five reasons why NFC is a great accessible option for those with vision loss.

1. It’s Tactile.

Unlike QR codes and barcodes, the location of an NFC chip can be discerned by touch. Every NFC tag has an antenna, which means that even tags embedded into products or packaging have a raised texture. This tactile element allows someone to locate the precise placement of the NFC tag without relying on any vision whatsoever. To locate and scan a barcode without using vision, it is necessary to use a camera or external device to scan for a QR code or barcode – which can be a lengthy and frustrating process.

2. It’s Fast.

When you scan an NFC tag, the information transmits almost instantly. If you are scanning through items in a pantry or closet to find something specific, a lag-time of a few seconds for each scan can add up. Tagging items with NFC allows you to scan and retrieve information almost instantaneously. WayAround speaks aloud the information stored on the tag when VoiceOver or TalkBack are turned on.

3. It’s On-demand.

Wireless technologies can provide a lot of information, however there is a wide degree of difference in how customizable the information is. What do you want to know and when do you want to know it? The information stored on NFC tags is passive, meaning that a person must actively scan a tag to retrieve the information. 

NFC tags scan when someone is within about an inch. If you don’t need the information on any given tag, it won’t automatically transmit to your device when you pass nearby. The close scanning range also provides greater accuracy for details. If you scan many NFC-tagged items in close proximity – file folders or items in a medicine cabinet – you can be confident in knowing which item you are receiving information about.

4. It’s Versatile.

NFC tags are available in many forms so you can choose the type that’s most appropriate for the object you want to tag. WayAround offers NFC tags as stickers, magnets, buttons, and clips. Some varieties are waterproof, heatproof, and can even be used outdoors.

There is no limit to the number of times you can rewrite an NFC tag, so you can use them again and again.

5. It’s Affordable.

Most phones come with built-in NFC readers, so there’s no extra hardware required. For added convenience, some external NFC scanners allow for faster scanning or continuous scanning without having to interface with a mobile app.

NFC tags cost about $1 each, and they do not require a battery or other regular maintenance. Since you can easily rewrite the information on an NFC tag, you can use the same tag multiple times, making them a great bang for your buck. NFC tags are available from many sources, and often buying more tags will result in a reduced price tag. Note that there are many different types of NFC tags, and some systems like WayAround pre-format the tags to make it easier for someone with average technology skills to use. Before you buy NFC tags, be sure they are compatible with the system you intend to use.