More than 2.3 million Hong Kong residents signed up for the HK$5,000 government consumption voucher scheme, intended to boost spending and the overall economy, on the first day of registration. But an NGO said some visually impaired people struggled with the authentication process.

The government said that as of 8 a.m. on Monday, almost 2.38 million people had registered online for its voucher scheme, which aims to speed up economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic. It said the process was “in general, smooth.”

The government’s online portal for the consumption voucher registration. Photo: GovHK screenshot.

Head of Budget and Tax Policy Unit Jessie Wong told broadcaster RTHK that more than two million people verified their identity by answering security questions linked to the HK$10,000 Cash Payout Scheme rolled out last year.

“The process is simple and no queueing was required,” a government statement said.

But the official iAM Smart app, which was also used for identity authentication by some people, struggled to keep up with user demand.

The voucher scheme is open to all Hong Kong residents aged 18 or over apart from foreign domestic workers. Four electronic payments providers – Octopus Hong Kong, AliPayHK, Tap & Go and WeChat Pay HK – have been selected to issue the coupons, which can be spent over several months in shops, restaurants and other locations.

Accessibility issues

Financial Secretary Paul Chan said on Sunday that electronic registration was the “fastest way” to obtain the vouchers, but the Hong Kong Blind Union said some members ran into problems when they used the official website.

An Octopus card. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The union’s General Secretary Jess Shek told HKFP that visually impaired people were bothered by a countdown system when they used the screen-reading function to navigate the platform.

The clock in the bottom right corner – which reminds applicants to complete the registration process within 30 minutes – would distract those with vision loss from listening to other content, Shek explained.

Another issue was the authentication process to confirm the application was not being filled in by a robot. The audio verification allowed applicants to type out a few English words played by the system, which the union said many of its Cantonese-speaking members had trouble completing.

“Not all of our members could catch the English words, or they didn’t know the spelling, so they had difficulty in completing this step,” Shek said.

Jess Shek. Photo: Hong Kong Blind Union.

Shek said the union was disappointed that the government did not consider accessibility before rolling out the registration platform. She said the visually impaired community had experienced similar problems in the past when the authorities launched online portals for the HK$10,000 cash payout scheme and for the government face mask distribution last year.

“When there were problems with two platforms before, why this third time did the government still not learn a lesson from the past and fix those accessibility issues in the design process?” Shek asked.

The union said problems with the countdown were fixed on Sunday afternoon, but the robot authentication system remained unsolved. Shek said the NGO would write to authorities asking them to take into account the needs of the visually impaired when designing websites.

Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.