We like to keep you updated on the latest news from the world of ophthalmology and there are two very interesting items this week. The first is new research that shows the importance of wearing UV eyewear to protect the delicate skin around the eyes. The second news item is that Pinterest, the popular online pinboard, has made its site more user-friendly for the visually impaired.
Protection for the delicate skin around the eyes:
Researchers at the University of Liverpool have discovered that people aren’t protecting themselves with sunscreen as well as they think they are. In a recent study they asked participants to apply sunscreen to their faces, then took before and after photos with a UV-sensitive camera. The areas covered with sunscreen appeared black in the photos, giving scientists good contrast with which to study UV protected and non-protected areas on participants’ faces.
The study showed that on average, people missed 9.5 percent of their faces when applying sunscreen. The most common areas left unprotected from the sun included the eyelids, the area between the inner corner of the eye and the bridge of the nose, and circles under the eyes. Even after researchers educated study participants about cancer of the eyelid and the importance of protecting eyelids with sunscreen, 7.7 percent of the participants’ faces were still left unprotected.
According to scientists conducting the study, more than 90 percent of basal cell carcinomas occur on the head or neck and five to 10 percent of all skin cancers occur on the eyelids. Researchers want to improve education about protecting these areas from the sun.
Covering the head, neck and eyelids is especially important for those skiing at high altitudes where there is less protection from the sun in the atmosphere and snow glare reflects the sun back onto the skin. Dr. Kevin Hamill, an author of the study said, “The eyes, and the skin around them, are especially vulnerable to UV radiation and cancers, so skiers and snowboarders who are at risk of high exposure really need to take care.” He recommends the following:
- A thoroughly-applied sunblock of at least SPF 30
- Reapplication of SPF 30 at regular intervals
- Wearing goggles or sunglasses with wrap around frames that protect the entire eye area
- Wearing eyewear that has 100% UV protection
Pinterest makes its site easier for the vision impaired
When Pinterest engineers studied how visually impaired people could use their popular service, they found they couldn’t really use it at all. People with impairments ranging from macular degeneration to blindness couldn’t get past the home screen on the Pinterest app to sign on and couldn’t create an account. They had literally no access to the app.
The problem was that Pinterest had not properly created an interface that would allow iOS and Android accessibility features like Voice Over and Talk Back to work. In addition, the tiny font used by Pinterest made it nearly impossible to read. As a result, Pinterest has completely redesigned its desktop site and its app. Here are some of the enhancements they made:
- Added the coding and labeling necessary so that accessibility features like Voice Over would read every component on the screen.
- Added “focus indicators”, outlines around buttons and menus that are active, to increase accessibility for people who can’t use a mouse or trackpad.
- Heightened contrast of the entire app so that it was more legible.
- Developed an entirely new color palette of bright jewel tones that frame text and make it pop visually.
- Eliminated the use of color to convey action or meaning.
- Introduced the option to increase the size of text across the app within the settings.
- Indicate information hierarchy by the size and boldness of the font, as opposed to the previous technique of displaying words in various shades of gray.
After addressing the visual limitations of the app, Pinterest went one step further and addressed the cultural limitations within the company.
- Launched an “inclusivity pop-up lab” for its own employees where they try to navigate the app with nothing but a keyboard, or wear items like visual-impairment goggles while trying to read the screen.
- Built automated testing for accessibility into all of its app updates moving forward.
We applaud Pinterest for this comprehensive approach to fixing not only their app and website, but their internal culture. We encourage more companies to increase their employees’ understanding of what it is like to live with a visual impairment. Every day we advocate for increased awareness of the impact of low vision. Pinterest has internalized that advocacy. We hope more companies follow suit.