Addressing a stakeholders’ meeting for
persons who have a visual impairment, Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia
Portelli held that the blind and visually impaired persons will now be able to
make independent use of their e-passport.
Malta will be amongst the first in the
EU to offer such a service. Portugal was the first EU member state to have
created a braille version of their e-passport (PEP).
Instead of opting for a braille version
of the Maltese e-passport, the blind and visually impaired will have a Speech
Code, in the form of a QR code sticker, affixed to their current or new
e-passport on request and at no charge. The user will scan the sticker using
the Speech Code mobile phone application which will convert the individual’s
name, date of birth, passport number and expiry date from text to speech. The
mobile phone application, which can be downloaded for free from either the
Apple Store or Google Play, will indicate the user where to place the phone’s
camera to capture the QR code.
On his part, Parliamentary Secretary
Anthony Agius Decelis held that the passport initiative is another step taken
by the government to continue breaking down barriers to social inclusion more
holistically. Anthony Agius Decelis mentioned the various initiatives taken to
further promote social inclusion, which includes books printed in large fonts,
the setting up of a fund for inclusive feasts in our towns and villages, and
the scooters project for persons with disability to improve accessibility and
comfort within our communities. Parliamentary Secretary Agius Decelis said that
the government is focused on improving the quality of life of every individual.
He said that this project launched by Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia
Portelli is another form of proof that this government is determined to improve
The idea to facilitate the use of the
Maltese passport for the visually impaired was first discussed in a similar
meeting held last year to commemorate World Sight Day, and over the past months,
Identity Malta has worked closely with representatives of the blind and
visually impaired community, in particular with the Foundation for ICT
Accessibility, to develop this new feature.
Identity Malta chose the Speech Code
over the braille solution since not all visually impaired persons, especially
those who lose their sight because of age, accident or illness, know how to
read braille and the Agency preferred to use the technology that the users are
accustomed to simplifying matters.
Parliamentary Secretary Farrugia
Portelli commended Identity Malta Agency for honouring its commitment towards
making its services more accessible since this new feature will give the blind
and visually impaired a greater sense of autonomy when making their travel arrangements
or travelling abroad.
Identity Malta Agency CEO Anton Sevasta,
held that as from next week the blind and visually impaired may personally
submit a request through the Passport Office to have this Speech Code feature
affixed to their existing or new e-passport, which Identity Malta will be
issuing in the days to come. Existing e-passports will remain valid and fit for
travel until their expiry date, and this Speech Code is compatible with both
old and new passport versions. Mr Sevasta also reiterated Identity Malta’s
commitment to further facilitate people’s lives using technology.
During the meeting, the stakeholders had
the opportunity to test out this new feature and applauded Identity Malta
Agency for its efforts.
The meeting was attended by the National
Commission for Persons with Disability, Foundation for ICT Accessibility
(FITA), Malta Society of the Blind and Torball.
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