Malta introduces biometric passports accessible to the blind and persons with visual impairments

Image from Security Document World

Malta is among the first countries in the European Union to create a biometric passport (e-passport) accessible to the blind and persons with visual impairments. 

A Speech Code, in the form of a QR code sticker, can be affixed to the user’s passport upon request and at no charge. The user can 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 app, which can be downloaded for free from either the Apple Store or Google Play, will indicate to the user where to place the phone’s camera to capture the QR code.

Portugal was the first EU member state to have created a braille version of their e-passport. Speech Code was chosen over the braille solution since not all persons with visual impairments – especially those who lose their sight because of age, accident or illness – know how to read braille. Speech Code was therefore judged to be more universally accessible.

The idea to create Maltese passports accessible to the blind and visually impaired was first discussed in a meeting last year to commemorate World Sight Day, and the project was launched by Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli. The Identity Malta Agency (the government agency responsible for matters relating to citizenship, identity documents, and work and residence documents, among others) worked closely with representatives of the blind and visually impaired community and the Foundation for ICT Accessibility to develop this new feature.

SourceSecurity Document World