Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Explaining it to the Sighted World

It is never a wise assumption when it comes to assuming that the sighted world will understand when we tell them that we are unable to access websites because they are inaccessible.  We need to be more explicit in order to get them to understand and that's just fine with me.  I'd like to take a few moments to paint the picture for a sighted person.


When a sighted person visits a website, they can use their eyes to choose which link they wish to click on in order to get where they are going.  In most instances, these links are represented by images, icons, and pictures.  They use a mouse to click on their desired choice.


When a blind person visits a website, they use a screen reader that enables them to find the links and content that they are looking for but when the links and/or content is depicted in the form of images, icons, or pictures, the screen reader is unable to decipher what it is.  A screen reader is software that speaks what is on a screen; it is unable to speak or describe something that does not have text to describe it.


In other words, think of it like this:

If you place a picture in front of a blind person, they will not know what it is unless you tell them what it is.  In like manner, if there is no text to describe what the picture, image, or icon is on a website, then the screen reader will not be able to tell the blind person what it is and what it means. 


The technology does not exist whereby there is software that can accurately describe the meaning of images, icons, or pictures.  A screen reader will only speak what it is able to decipher and this does not include images, icons, and pictures.


It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words; but no two persons can ever describe a picture in the same way.  If textual descriptions are used to describe icons, images, and pictures, it would make life so much easier for a magnitude of

persons that include:  The Blind and vision impaired, those who are unable to read print, those with learning disabilities, and those whose first language is not English. 


It is relatively easy and cost effective to provide textual descriptions to icons, images, and pictures.  Blind persons cannot use a mouse to click on images, icons, and pictures, because they are unable to see where to point and click.  It is a lot cheaper to provide textual descriptions than it is to carry out time consuming research to find ways to make it possible for a screen reader to read pictures, images, and icons.


In like manner, it is relatively easy to design a form that can be accessed by a blind person online.  If however the form needs to be downloaded and printed in order to be completed, then a blind person will have to ask for sighted assistance to do so.  They will not be able to complete and sign a printed form because they are unable to see to read and sign.


These are just a few explanations that are most common to help the sighted world understand more clearly.


If you would like to learn more about how blind persons access the Internet, then visit

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and asking you to go out there and spread the message to others about how blind persons go about accessing the Internet.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Downloading Software Could be a Problem

For me, downloading software is a mixed bag.  I need to be on the alert when downloading software but this should not be just for me alone.  My challenge is as follows:  If my screen reading software does not speak what is happening on the screen as the software is being downloaded, then I am not going to be comfortable and if it requires me to click on an image or icon in order to download, then this too is a challenge. 


I will say that things have improved when it comes to being able to download software but every now and then I run into problems when I need to download something and then the screen freezes and I am totally unaware of it until I realize that too much time has gone by without my screen reading software informing me of what is going on. 


The ideal situation for me is to be able to hear what is going on as software is being downloaded and what is happening when software is being installed.  Hopefully with time, this is going to get better for those of us who are unable to see the screen and have to depend on our screen reading software to tell us what is going on.


If you would like to learn more about different types of screen reading software, then you may want to visit and subscribe to their newsletters.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and explain to others about some of the challenges that blind persons face when downloading software.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Close Captioning is not for Me

I decided to write about this after a recent incident where I was told by a webmaster that they had provided sufficient close captioning so that a blind person could access their website easily.  This may sound like a very feasible solution but in actuality it is not.  Far from it, I humbly submit that this particular web master was way off the mark.


If I had wanted to be a bit condescending then I could have said to this particular webmaster that blind persons can hear so they do not need close captioning in order to help them keep up with audio portions of programs.  Believe it or not, there are many persons out there who for some unexplained reason believe that blind persons are also hard of hearing.


To clarify and to put things into perspective:  Close captioning is used in order to facilitate the needs of those who are hard of hearing.  Close captioning is the text that appears on screen to help those with hearing problems to keep up with the audio portion of a movie or program.  Blind persons need audio description in order to keep up with the visual portion of a movie or program.


The use of audio description and close captioning is becoming more common these days as movie and TV producers strive to make their films more accessible to the blind and hearing impaired.  If you would like to learn more then why not visit  You are guaranteed to learn many new things.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and asking you to go out there and help educate the rest of the world about the difference between close captioning and audio description.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Problem with Entering Pin Numbers

Here is the problem as I see it.

If the keypad is not one where I can hear what I enter, then it is inaccessible and consequently I am wide open to both error as well as security breaches.  In the case of error, I have to trust that I am pressing the correct keys and in the case of security breaches anyone can easily see what I am entering by looking at the screen over my shoulder.


If I am unable to hear what I enter then there is no way for me to know whether or not I have made an error and I have to depend on sighted assistance in the form of a clerk to tell me what has transpired.  This means that they will have to watch as I enter my pin number; no getting around this.


There may be a way to address the first concern; that is, if the manufacturer were to find a way to imbed talking software in their keypads.  I could use headphones to enable me to hear what I enter.  In the case of the second concern, I wonder if the manufacturers could have some sort of shield or sleeve made to fit over the screen and keypad so as to allow for privacy.


Blind persons have to be especially careful when it comes to guarding their privacy in public; they need to ensure that their pin numbers are safe from prying eyes and potential scammers.  What we need is to have manufacturers understand our concern and hopefully we can find a solution to these concerns.  To learn more about our concerns, you can visit


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and tell the rest of the world about our concerns. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Only the Sound of a Voice

That's literally all that I have to go on when I meet someone for the first time.  I have to listen carefully to the sound and tone of their voice.  How they sound to me will determine how I do such things as:  Analyze them, rate them, trust them, and so on.


In the same way that a sighted person uses their eyes to analyze, rate, and trust, so too I use the sound of a voice to help me navigate life.  The sound of some voices may encourage me to trust more while others may not but it's not just the tone; it also depends on what words are spoken by the person, phrases, and intonation.  Somewhat like a piano or electronic keyboard when I go to test one. 


In whatever I do, I do my best not to be too biased by the sound of a voice but in the final analysis, only the sound of a voice can help me to navigate my way around someone new.  You may learn more about how blind persons use the sound of a voice to help them by visiting


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Music Helps Me

In a world where most of us often crave a corner to stop and think, or one to escape the white noise, I do it all with music.  I don't think that it has anything to do with not being able to see; it's my way of coping. 

Whenever I wish to think, remember, create, or just get away from noise, I listen to my music.


I have carefully built a collection of my favorite songs and I use these to remember and replay.  Colors come dancing across my mind.  Faces come clearly into view, and sounds within my music help me to regenerate. 

 Some of my friends have told me that as a blind person, my imagination may be apt to be more active than that of a mainstream person.  I don't really know but this could be a topic for a next blog. 


Whatever it is, music helps me to remember, create, and focus.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day.