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The common collaboration of the communities of Visually Impaired people all over Hungary resulted in success: The SozialMarie Audience Award 2020 went to TÁVSZEM – Remote Eye.
The Tender for SozialMarie is announced every year, searching for projects aiming at the improvement of the quality of life of a disadvantaged social group through innovative tools and community solutions. The program searches for social innovations that have already been tried and proved to be effective in Central and Eastern Europe. Due to the ongoing COVID-19, the 16th SozialMarie was awarded to 15 excellent social innovations in frame of a virtual Award Ceremony on 1st May, 2020. The first three prize-winners were endowed with € 15,000, € 10,000 and € 5,000, while the other 12 projects won € 2,000, each.
The final nominees for the Austrian-founded SozialMarie - Prize for Social Innovation 2020 included 10 projects by NGOs from Hungary, as well as others from Austria, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Slovakia. An experts’ jury nominated 34 projects from 288 submissions, and later awarded 15 prizes to the best innovations. There was a 16th, a people’s choice award decided by the international audience.
During the online vote between 23-29 April, from a record total of 12,319 votes, 1,761 were cast for the online remote assistance project of MVGYOSZ - Hungarian Federation of the Blind and Partially Sighted. Thus, TÁVSZEM – Remote Eye won a financial support of €1,000.
In frame of TÁVSZEM – Remote Eye services sighted professionals act as the eyes of a Visually Impaired user via the camera of a smartphone, using a designated accessible application. This way the operator can inform the client by describing what is to be seen around the blind user. Having won the audience award is a real professional and community success in the life of MVGYOSZ. And all this could not have been achieved without another professional success.
The staff of SozialMarie kept in regular e-mail contact with the nominees, and provided information on the process of submitting an application, the nomination, the audience voting, and the jury process. The continuous up-to-date information was especially important during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, which also led to serious changes in process of the online audience vote, as well as in the organization of the public vote and the award ceremony.
During the preparation phase, the organizers offered a pre-testing opportunity for the nominated organizations as the public vote took place on a brand new, freshly developed, and published website. Preliminary testing was, of course, also done by our experts, as we considered it essential that the link was accessible for visually impaired persons and to have equal chances to participate in the public vote.
During the testing, we had to face the fact that in spite of the possibility of casting only one vote from a particular e-mail address and to confirm that vote a link received by an email had to be opened also, the voting process contained an extra built-in security feature requiring an action, which could not be done without the ability of visual perception (CAPTCHA). Thus, anyone using a screen reader or living as a partial sighted could not participate on his or her own in the voting. Considering equal accessibility as one the main priorities of MVGYOSZ in all fields of life, we thought it was a must to report that obstacle to the organizers.
Having not more than a day and a half left till the opening of the public vote, we did not have high hopes for the situation turning favourable. We were all the more surprised to receive an immediate reply from the Hungarian coordinator, saying that our claim had been forwarded to the developers, not to speak about the next advice a few hours later confirming that the security feature in question had been removed from the voting process. That is such a small but important reinforcement in advocacy work, which is unfortunately very rare in Hungary. Thanks to this intervention and to the prompt reaction by the organizers, as well as to bringing together our visually impaired communities, colleagues and members of MVGYOSZ and its member associations, TÁVSZEM-Remote Eye Project won not only the Audience Award, but also collected a record number of votes.
As the winner of the Audience Award, TÁVSZEM-Remote Eye receives a financial support of €1,000 for further education and development of the operators providing the actual services in frame of the project.
As to TÁVSZEM-Remote Eye services and in what fields that remote assistance is provided to Visually Impaired people, you can read a more in a separate article to follow in a later issue.