What is a QR Code, and How can it be a part of accessibility?

Ipek from Supersense
4 minutes reading time
January 20, 2022

We are all familiar with Barcodes, a code consisting of bars and spaces containing information only readable by machines. Like Barcodes, QR codes (Quick Response Codes) can also hold lots of information. The most significant difference between these two codes is that while reading a Barcode requires a specific type of scanner, nowadays, smartphone cameras and lots of apps can scan and read QR codes and let you access the information they hold.

A person holding a phone horizontally scanning a QR code in a restaurant named WurstHall to access the menu.
Photo by Albert Hu on Unsplash

QR codes have been around for more than 25 years, primarily used on packages of consumer products like medicines or make-up products, business cards, and flyers. But as they became more popular and easy to scan, they were loaded with more information. These codes usually contain a link that directs the user to web addresses, videos, images, etc. Hence, they became an easy source of information for developers and marketers.

Every QR code is unique, and the information they hold is embedded into the dots and spaces as it is in a barcode. When you scan the code with your smartphone camera or an app, you are presented with the data they store, and you can directly access the information without having to type in anything into your browser or your phone.

What do QR Codes mean for Accessibility?

For blind and visually impaired people, fast and reliable access to information is crucial for safety and security. Looking for the web address or product information for minutes is an unpleasant experience, especially when there’s no one to assist and direct users to the right source of information. Most blindness apps read what’s on the package but what if you need more info?

That problem was solved to a degree when Barcode Scanners were made public by some developers, like i-d mate by EnVision America. Some apps like our app, Supersense, offer built-in solutions to scan barcodes from within the app without having to carry another device with you all the time. Supersense also offers barcode guidance to help you find where the barcode is located on a package.

Like barcodes, QR codes hold information about the product such as the name, the price, serving size, cooking instructions, images, videos, or web addresses. This information are accessed by a direct link so you don’t have to type anything into your browser. You scan the code and you click the link. That’s all. As it is a super-easy way to convey information they are now used to label a broad range of consumer products as well as restaurant menus or even on posters, flyers, and business cards.

The reason? Unlike barcodes, QR codes don't require a database to store information. Just now, you can open your browser, find a website that lets you generate QR codes fill that in with the information you need, and click generate. You can use them to label things at home if you would prefer them over other labeling options.

Another reason that QR code usage became more ubiquitous is the pandemic. QR codes containing your health information are required before entering public places such as shopping malls, governmental buildings, schools, etc. They make navigating everyday life easier because you don't need to carry anything other than your smartphone and enter any information manually or memorize any 20 digit number.

What does the Supersense QR Code scanner do?

If you’re a long-term Supersense user, you may know that Supersense already has a built-in barcode scanner with a vast database. Our Barcode feature also contains a labeling option, which helps you label the products that are not currently in the database and share them with friends and family. We wrote about our Barcode scanner extensively here and here.

So, you may be wondering why to add a QR code scanner while we already have a barcode scanner. The answer is all of the reasons above.

We prioritize a smooth everyday life for all. And in this day and age, accessing information fast and reliable is the only path to a smooth daily life experience. Therefore, we want our users to be able to use Supersense in every aspect of their lives to access and store information and refer back when they need to.

Our QR code scanner is in the same place as our barcode scanner. Supersense recognizes if it’s a barcode or QR code you’re scanning and tells you out loud what the code holds. Whether it’s a menu, a website, a product, or a business card, you’ll have no hard time accessing the data you need and get along with your day without spending minutes looking for the info.

Have you tried the Supersense QR code scanner? Tell us what you think!

An illustration of a smartphone

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Supersense is one of the most downloaded and highest rated apps for the blind on both App Store and Google Play. We constantly add new features and and enhance the existing ones. Download and try it for free!

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We’d love to have a conversation. If you are a part of the blind and visually impaired community, you’d like to be part of our mission, or share your ideas and collaborate with us, get in touch with us.

We are based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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