Is your blog accessible to blind computer users?

My thanks to Chris Graham (AKA The Story Reading Ape) https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com, for drawing this article on why much of the internet is inaccessible to blind people to my attention, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-49694453.

As many of you who follow my blog will know, I lost the majority of my eyesight at 18-months-old. I am unable to read print and use software called Job Access with Speech (JAWS), which converts text into speech and braille enabling me to use a Windows computer or laptop. For anyone interested in finding out about JAWS, please follow this link, https://www.freedomscientific.com/products/software/jaws/.

The article linked to above, details a number of problems faced by blind users of the internet, many of which I have experienced whilst navigating the World Wide Web. For example, the piece explains how blind computer users can be faced with unlabelled links on a webpage meaning that what is heard is next to useless. I have myself been faced with a page where JAWS reads “link, link, link”, meaning that the only way in which I can ascertain what the content of a particular link may be is by clicking on said link. This is, obviously a very tedious undertaking and, in many instances I have given up on the site in question and visited a more accessible alternative.

Turning specifically to sites hosted directly on WordPress (such as my own blog), these are, on the whole accessible. For example all the social media sharing buttons on kmorrispoet.com are labelled so anyone using a screen reader such as JAWS will hear “Twitter, Facebook” etc voiced by JAWS. Likewise the comments form is clearly labelled as such meaning that anyone logged into a WordPress account can easily post a comment.

In contrast I have found that many of the self-hosted WordPress sites are not as accessible as those hosted directly on WordPress. For example I often come across unlabelled sharing buttons on self-hosted sites so the only way in which I can determine what the button in question may be, is by actually clicking on it.

Whilst some comments forms on self-hosted sites are labelled with fields such as “comment”, “your name”, “email address”, others are not. In the latter instance the JAWS (or other screen reader user) is forced to guess what each field is or, more often simply to give up on their intention of posting a comment and navigate away from the site/blog in question.

In my experience the vast majority of bloggers care about their readers and wish to ensure that everyone is able to access their sites equally and enjoy the same ability to participate in discussions. However, unless a blogger is themselves blind (or knows a blind screen reader user), its perfectly possible that they have little (if any idea) as to how blind web users access their site/blog.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has links to useful guidance explaining how webmasters can ensure that their sites are accessible to those with site loss. For anyone who is unsure whether their blog and/or website is accessible, you may find it helpful to visit here, https://www.sightadvicefaq.org.uk/independent-living/accessible-website.

Kevin

23 thoughts on “Is your blog accessible to blind computer users?

  1. Patty

    Reblogged this on Campbells World and commented:
    For best experience with the internet and screen reader software especially WordPress use Google Chrome.
    this is a good article.
    thanks to the blogger for helping to bring about awareness.

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Many thanks for sharing this, Patty. I also tend to use Google Chrome when using WordPress and agree with you that it works well. I have also used Firefox and Internet Explorer (alth the latter is, as you know old technology now and is not the best browser in a number of respects).

      Reply
  2. Pingback: Worth bearing in mind | When the pen takes control.

    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Many thanks for your comment and please accept my apologies for the delay in approving/acknowledging it. I am usually quick on picking up on comments but, unfortunately I missed yours until today. Thanks also for checking the accessibility of your website. Best wishes, Kevin

      Reply
  3. Christine Bolton

    Thank you for sharing this article. I did not know your story Sue. How amazing are you to have such a wonderful site and make our blogging experience so special with your posts and prompts. My hat is off to you!
    Thank you for all you do ❤️

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Many thanks for your comment and your kind words, Christine. Please accept my apologies for the delay in approving/acknowledging your contribution. I am usually good on quickly replying to comments, however I unfortunately missed yours until today. Best wishes, Kevin

      Reply
  4. petespringerauthor

    One of the groups I volunteer for in retirement is The Society for the Blind. https://societyfortheblind.org/ I read our local newspaper once a week so that people who are blind or have limited vision can access the articles. I used to do this on live radio, but our local group folded. I now read the pieces using the voice memo feature on my cellphone. I’ve always been curious about the technical aspects of how the articles can be accessed.

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Many thanks for your comment. You are doing good work which is, I am sure appreciated by the visually impaired people who access the articles read by you. When I first started to access talking newspapers, they came through the post recorded onto standard compact cassettes. The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) now offer access online and via Daisy . I’m glad you found my post informative. Kevin

      Reply
  5. OIKOS™-Publishing

    Thank you very much, for this great information. Never thought wordpress.com is fully accessible by screenreader. This is wonderful news forwarding to people want to give all readers the possibility to access their pages. Best wishes, Michael

    Reply
  6. Jaq

    Thanks for the reminder. I’ve had a blind Internet friend for years and he taught me much about how to make my website blind-friendly, but it’s due for an overhaul, especially on image tags. He also taught me how to find my way around in a totally dark room with sound, which came in very handy once!

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Many thanks for commenting and for taking website accessibility seriously. I was interested to learn that you have a blind internet friend, and intrigued to hear about your experience navigating round a room in the dark. How did the latter come about? Best wishes, Kevin

      Reply
      1. Jaq

        Oh that was fun. The first Lord of the Rings film had just been released and I went to the cinema to see it. As it was three hours long, I definitely wanted to stop in the toilet just before going in, only the lights in the toilets were out and it turned out they were controlled remotely and the staff couldn’t get them on! They wouldn’t get a torch (flashlight) because of health and safety. So, being stubborn and having recently discussed the concept with my friend, I went into the pitch black room, which I had been in before so I knew the layout with the circle of sinks in the middle and the stalls on the far side. I spoke to another brave soul who plunged in along with me, explaining about the slight echo that told us how near the sinks were. We both did what we needed to do and found our way out fine with no bruised shins.

      2. K Morris Poet Post author

        I am impressed with your enginuity and glad you escaped with no bruises to show for your adventure!

        The failure of staff to provide flash lights does sound like health and safety gone mad (or perhaps their misinterpretation of health and safety requirements)!

        Kevin

      3. Jaq

        Just shows how valuable it is to learn from people with different experience than our own. I used to ask my friend a lot about his perceptions and how they work out of genuine curiosity and find it all very interesting, even when I’m not lost in a dark room.

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