Deeper Views on Accessibility

Last week we talked about how certain cultures, and persons within lower income brackets have experienced internet accessibility issues. Digging even deeper we’ve been delving into accessibility which goes beyond culture and income. What about those not able to type due to disabilities? What about those who are blind? These groups of society experience even more complicated issues than I would have expected.

My first task was to get a small taste of these disabilities in relation to the internet by using a ‘screen reader’. I expedited the process by allowing myself to find the screen reader before attempting to navigate by using only hearing. Once everything was downloaded I attempted to get the reader working. At this point I was still using my sight, justifying that someone would have been taught how to use this prior to actually doing so. Without someone to teach this, I’m fairly confident that this would be absolutely impossible. There is no way to know what is being clicked on, or what is even on the screen in front of someone without an initial lesson. Even using my sight, I had a hard time understanding what I was supposed to do to get it working. I spent a good 20 minutes or so clicking on things and listening to the person read only bits and pieces of what I was trying to get it to read. After a short while I found that I was supposed to use the supplied browser in order to get the reader to work. I haven’t even restricted my own sight yet and I’ve spent upwards of 30 minutes getting confused over this situation. I started to see that this wasn’t going to be anywhere near as simple as I thought.

I started up the browser and then the reader, closed my eyes and started to attempt to navigate and understand what was being read to me. First irritating fact I noticed was that since the internet is largely based on non-blind users, all of the advertisements, headings, and links were being read to me piece by piece. I attempted to click out of this and horribly failed. Finally I gave up and just allowed the reader to read through all the links until it arrived at the selected article I wanted to read. The voice was choppy, electronic, awkward, and just plain irritating; too fast at times, and not fast enough at others. This went on for about 5 minutes through the text and I finally got so irritated that I opened my eyes, shut off the program, and uninstalled it. I didn’t just turn it off, I was annoyed and irritated enough that I made a point to take the time and REMOVE the program from my computer.

Needless to say, I have a fresh perspective on disabled internet users. This little experiment was bothersome, a huge hassle, and the article I was trying to read was only 5-8 paragraphs long! What about books? Full web pages? Facebook? Twitter? I’m sure I would join the group of thousands of Americans who decided to just give up the internet altogether. It wouldn’t be worth the hassle or the encumbrance on someone to even teach me…

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