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January 16, 2019 11:56 am

McDonald’s Israel Becomes First Restaurant Chain to Adopt App Giving Full Access to Blind Customers

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

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A McDonald’s restaurant in Tel Aviv. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

McDonald’s in Israel is set to become the first restaurant chain in the world to offer full access for blind and visually-impaired customers at all its locations.

According to the Hebrew news site Mako, McDonald’s is using a voice navigation app called RightHear, which will interact with a series of sensors in each restaurant and convey voice instructions to blind customers, allowing them to navigate the space.

Idan Meir, CEO and co-founder of RightHear, described the app as “a ramp for the blind,” comparing it to forms of wheelchair access.

“Until now, the concept was that [blindness] was an incurable disability, and these people could do nothing but stay at home or be accompanied by someone,” he said. “If a 16-year-old blind boy wanted to go to McDonald’s with his friends, he had to go with someone, and if he wanted to go to the bathroom, someone had to accompany him and show him where it was. Today, we’re giving him a kind of ramp, allowing him to operate independently in the space and do the same things as everybody else.”

“This is the first of its kind in the world,” Meir stated of the collaboration with McDonald’s. “It is the first fast food chain that decided to make all its branches accessible to the [blind] public.”

This is important, added Meir, because “this is a very well known chain in Israel and the world, and when it does something like this all the others follow after it.”

Meir emphasized that RightHear was not only designed for the blind, but also people with other conditions, such as dementia that affects memory. “The constant knowledge of where you are and what is around you, and the ability to call for aid, helps them, gives them confidence, and reduces anxiety,” he said.

The ultimate goal, Meir went on to say, was to create a complete network of areas with RightHear sensors to allow the blind to navigate from place to place without aid. “The more places take part,” he said, “the value to the user rises, and this is also one of the reasons McDonald’s excited us, because they are located everywhere in Israel. … Our dream is that more restaurants will turn to us following the process with McDonald’s and adopt it.”

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