NEW YORK--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--I-MerSee, an innovative New York City-based start-up company, today launched the world’s first social media network for the visually impaired and 50 and over communities, coinciding with Blindness Awareness Month.
“I-MerSee saw an opportunity to offer visually impaired and those over 50 a simplified experience, giving them the tools and capabilities to more intuitively interact with their preferred social networks.”
According to the World Health Organization, more than 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired: 39 million are completely blind, while more than 246 million have low vision. Further, there are approximately 700 million people worldwide that are 60 and over, and by 2050, that figure will increase to 2 billion people. Currently, 72 percent of online U.S. adults use social networking sites1 and 37 million Baby Boomers use social networks and blogs, accounting for 22.5 percent of the total audience to those sites2. For the more than 21 million visually impaired individuals across the United States – and the rising population of those 50 and over – the ability to access these social media platforms has been limited – until now.
While traditional assistive technologies such as screen readers have supported the visually impaired and 50 and over communities’ use of social media, many of these platforms lack the functionality to offer an engaging and immersive experience. I-MerSee integrates the latest assistive technologies, including text-to-speech (TTS), speech-to-text (STT) and screen magnification to create an intuitive and dynamic social experience. The platform allows users to interact with past and present colleagues, family and friends across today’s most popular social media platforms, while also acting as a standalone social network, offering users access to information, events and activities of interest.
“Social media is a critical communications channel in today’s society, with users ranging from adolescents to baby boomers, who have varying skillsets and objectives for using the platforms,” said Raphael Kernberg, CEO of I-MerSee. “I-MerSee saw an opportunity to offer visually impaired and those over 50 a simplified experience, giving them the tools and capabilities to more intuitively interact with their preferred social networks.”
The company was founded by Benjamin Azuelos, an established engineer with a diverse background in programming, computer science and engineering, in May 2013. In 2009, Azuelos’ grandfather lost his vision in a work-related accident, exposing the younger Azuelos to the challenges faced by the visually impaired, specific to their use of new technologies.
“The visually impaired and those over 50 with failing vision have had to largely rely on expensive assistive software to take part in social media,” said Azuelos. “During the I-MerSee conceptualization period, we spent three years and nearly $5 million dollars in research and development, working with the most credible academics and engineers to develop a platform that was intuitive and easy to use. We’re proud to officially launch I-MerSee to the world, and are confident this platform will help the visually impaired and 50 and over communities better navigate and more freely access and enjoy the social media experience.”
The social network appeals not only to the visually impaired and those 50 and over with failing vision, but also to sighted individuals who support the visually impaired and/or 50 and over family members. To connect users to Facebook, I-MerSee’s platform synchs with Facebook’s interface, auto-populating Facebook information into I-MerSee’s platform instantly, allowing seamless integration and navigation of the Facebook network. Once synched, users can log into I-MerSee directly to use Facebook and chat with friends, upload photos and preview friends and family photos and news through the platform’s integrated assistive technology features.
I-MerSee has partnered with UNEDUC, a non-profit organization endorsed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNEDUC’s mission includes raising funds to support educational programs for the disabled in developing nations. Among other funding sources, UNEDUC will raise funds through contributions generated by Internet-based advertisement revenues in partnership with I-MerSee. Further information on UNEDUC’s efforts can be found at www.uneduc.net.
Social media users are encouraged to visit the I-MerSee platform and register as members, instantly connecting with family and friends and sharing interests and information via www.i-mersee.com.
Founded in May 2013 by Benjamin Azuelos, I-MerSee is the first ever social media network designed specifically for the visually impaired and 50 and over communities. Featuring the latest in assistive technology, I-MerSee offers a comprehensive social media experience that connects users to the most popular social networks while also providing them with information on events and activities of interest to them. I-MerSee is headquartered in New York City.
1 Pew Research Center