sue watling

Supporting visually impaired people using the internet highlights how little attention is paid to ensuring websites are accessible. It’s frustration overload; as if finding your way around the keyboard isn’t difficult enough you are then reliant on ‘listening’ to a disembodied electronic voice reading out the html sitting behind the website. It can’t make assumptions or use previous knowledge; it can only read what the designer has put there.

Online information is still designed primarily to be a visual experience. There are standards and guidelines galore but wouldn’t it be easier to ask a visually impaired person what works and what doesn’t work?

A leading supermarket has done some work on making its online shopping site accessible to the visually impaired. BUT there are still problems. It’s 2009. What happened to compliance with disability legislation that started over a decade ago? Why is it that the most vulnerable members of our society – to whom internet access can offer opportunities to re-engage through digital data – are still being discriminated against?

It’s not a technical issue; it’s a human one – it’s a social, cultural and political one. The Internet could be fully accessible and it isn’t; and that reflects badly on everyone of us working with virtual environments.



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