If I can hear what you can see!

June 2012
If I can hear what you can see!

Hello everyone:
Each month I will be responding to a question; chosen from a pool of some of
the most commonly asked ones that i have been asked over the years and
continue to be asked.
This month, I’d like to respond to a common question from website developers
as follows:
What should developers bear in mind when ensuring that their websites need
to be made
fully accessible to those who are blind and partially sighted?
The short version response in my humble opinion would be if i can hear what
you can see then what a wonderful world it would be!
What does this all mean?

When developing a website, developers need to be fully cognoscente of the
following:
Special technology and how it deals with icons, images, graphics, and pop-up
and drop down menus.
Accessible file formats.
Readable web content.
Links that are easy to understand and navigate.
language that is easy to understand.
Fields and forms are easy to complete.

This list is by no means complete and I will deal briefly with each
component individually.
It is a good start and I hope that it helps to get you going on the right
track. The one thing that I am going to stress here is that my list not
only benefits blind and sight impaired persons, it benefits everyone.

Access technology –
Blind and sight impaired persons use access technology to surf websites.
They use screen readers and text magnifiers.
For those who are either totally blind or do not have enough vision to see
large print,
the use of screen reader technology is the preferred method of surfing and
for those who either have enough vision to read large print or can do so
through the use of magnification, text magnifiers is the preferred method.

A developer needs to keep in mind that screenreading software is unable to
decipher and interpret such things as:
icons, images, and graphics. Accordingly, alt tags with appropriate
descriptions of the above need to be deployed.
Screen reading software also has difficulty dealing with pop-up and drop
down menus.

Accessible file formats –
Blind and sight impaired persons are unable to read PDF files that are not
properly tagged. PDFs are images and this is why. Accordingly, PDF files
need to be appropriately tagged and if that is not possible then the
developer needs to offer the following types of files:
.txt, .rtf, word formats, and HTML

Readable web content –
If the content is well organized with headings that clearly identify
sections of text, then it makes life much easier for blind and sight
impaired surfers. It also makes life easier for most surfers as well. The
use of headings and titles are the important variables here and if
abbreviations are to be used throughout the website then a list of their
meanings up front would greatly help.

Links that are easy to understand and navigate-
This applies to links that are appropriately named and life is again made
much easier if links are grouped in logical order and they should be
constructed in such a way as to be easy to find.

language that is easy to understand-
Language that is easy to understand greatly benefits not just the blind and
sight impaired but also those whose first language is not English.

Fields and forms are easy to complete –
One of the most commonly made errors made by developers are the design of
fields and forms that need to be completed and/or filled in. Fields and
forms need to be appropriately identified so that screen reading technology
can correctly interpret and identify them to the blind and sight impaired
user.

So there you have it. A good start for you and then there are other things
for you to look at such as appropriate foreground and background colors and
fonts but that’s for another day.
Have fun!

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