Vic Emergency app accessible to vision-impaired and people who don’t speak English at home – ABC News

by learn a language journalist

The State Government is funding an upgrade of the Vic Emergency app to make it multilingual and suitable for the vision-impaired.

Key points:

The app, which has been downloaded more than 2.5 million times since its launch four years ago, is only available in English.

Culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) Victorians have been calling on the Government to make the app more user-friendly.

More than 1.5 million Victorians do not speak English at home and have trouble understanding emergency information during bushfires.

The Government allocated $4 million in this week’s budget to upgrade the app over the next two years.

“This funding will see upgrades, maintenance and enhancements to the Vic Emergency app, ensuring the system remains fit for purpose … with the anticipated expanding userbase,” a spokesman for Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) said. 

“A key upgrade will see an expanded functionality in the application, to make emergency warnings information easily accessible for CALD communities and the visually-impaired.”

Local incident pages and community portals will also be updated.

A woman stands at the front gate of a brick home

Warning failures highlighted during COVID-19

During last summer’s bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, Amina Khatun, became the go-to translator for older members of her Rohingya community in Morwell in the Latrobe Valley.

She said changes to the app would be a big relief for multicultural community leaders like herself who have shouldered the burden of interpreting emergency information.

“It’s very good, it will really help the community understand what’s going on,” Ms Khatun said.

“So I would be calling every family I know to let them know what’s going on.”

Currently, Victorians who need emergency information translated need to call the Vic Emergency hotline and be transferred to the Commonwealth Translating and Interpreting Service.

Ms Khatun said multicultural Victorians deserved access to warnings in real time.

“Now they can be independent themselves and don’t have to rely on coming to me, so it will be very helpful,” Ms Khatun said.

Multicultural research organisation LOTE Agency wants the Government to offer the Vic Emergency app in all languages.

“COVID put it in bright lights that communities just do not have access to a whole range of important information, and bushfire warnings are obviously time critical, and CALD communities still don’t have access to critical health information in their own language,” LOTE Agency CEO David Bartlett said.

“In the past 12 months we’ve been doing a lot of focus groups around accessibility of emergency information such as bushfire warnings and we had discussions with EMV to try to make their app more accessible, so it’s really encouraging to see the recent budget.

“Obviously best practice would be giving to as many people as we can.”

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