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 www.w3c.org.

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.

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