Tag Archives: technology

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

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Of Book Signings and Ebooks

As an author, I derive great pleasure from providing family, friends and other readers with signed copies of my paperback books. Indeed, over the last week or so, I have mailed 3 copies of my recently released “Selected Poems”, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Selected-Poems-K-Morris/dp/1688049800, and furnished 3 signed copies to friends face-to-face.

In addition to my squashed spider of a signature, each book contains a personalised message. Its wonderful to receive the heartfelt messages of thanks and to know that a reader will have a physical copy of my “Selected Poems” on their bookshelves to enjoy for years to come.

Whilst I can not envisage the demise of physical books (either paperback or hardback) as many people, including me love to hold a real book in their hands, the growth in ebooks has driven the development of solutions enabling authors to sign electronic copies of their books. See, for example this article, https://selfpublishingadvice.org/book-marketing-tip-how-to-offer-signed-books-at-low-cost/.

I haven’t used Authorgraph (one of the solutions mentioned in the above article). However the ability to sign ebooks opens up new possibilities for both readers and authors. No longer does a UK author need to send a signed (physical) copy of his/her book halfway around the world by post, as he/she can sign an electronic book remotely. Of course many readers will, I feel sure still wish to own a signed (physical) copy of a book. However, for those who prefer ebooks, or others who can not aford the expense of postage and packaging, the ability to have an ebook signed by their favourite author can only be a good thing.

Kevin

I Flick Through Contacts On My Mobile Phone

I flick through
Contacts on my mobile phone.
True they
Make it easy to
Keep in touch by phone
Or text,
Although it does vex
Me that technology
Renders memory
Unnecessary, for why keep
In your head
Numbers stored on the cold phone?
And you sleep
Forever in a house of stone,
Your number, dead,
On my useless phone.

When Men Reach The Stars

When men
Reach the stars
And girls lose their bras
At the click of a mouse.
And men
Can be
Whatever they wish to be
In the virtual house,
I wonder will we
Be happy
Or free.

Researchers Trained Computers To Write Poetry

Researchers have developed a bot capable of writing poetry. Having been fed a good deal of verse, the programme is, apparently capable of tricking humans and has come up with many poems, including the example below:

“With joyous gambols gay and still array
No longer when he twas, while in his day
At first to pass in all delightful ways
Around him, charming and of all his days”.

The New York Post describes the above as “not bad”. While I would agree that this sample of verse is interesting, I wouldn’t describe it as “not bad”. To me it reads rather like a computer programme had been fed the complete poetic works of the humorous poet Edward Lear and come up with this short poem. The verse is, for me also reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky.

Poetry is, in the final analysis an expression of human emotion, whether sadness, happiness, anger or a combination of various emotions. At present only humans can feel emotion (as opposed to being able to simulate it), so what the researches have created is a clever programme capable of soaking up the poetry produced by others and using its “knowledge”? to produce it’s own attempts at poetry. The programme is producing nothing original, although it has, admittedly knitted together the poetic cannon to produce some interesting results.

To read the article please follow this link, https://nypost.com/2018/08/08/researchers-trained-robots-to-write-poetry/.

I Sit in Quietude

I sit in quietude
With no
Tech to intrude.
I know
The inanity
And vanity
Of all
This stuff.
Birds call
Yet most men hear not
For the white hot
Heat of technology beckons.
I count the cost
Of countless seconds
Lost
In this screen
Dream
Where you and I
Fly, but never see the sky.