Most bloggers probably haven’t thought about their posts being read by someone who is visually handicapped. Neither had Alison Gary, author of My Wardrobe Today and Wardrobe Oxygen, until she received a reader email. After researching how a visually impaired person accesses online media, she wrote about her experience below.
I was recently contacted by a woman who has been a loyal reader to my blogs for over two years. She is completely blind. She uses a machine that will read aloud Web sites and blogs to blind people. She contacted me about some fashion advice but also let me know that sites like FeedBlitz cannot be used by the blind because they have a captcha/word verification to authorize the email process, without an audio option.
I had never thought about this, and that is pretty bad considering that part of my 9-5 job is making PowerPoint and Word documents 508-compliant for government web sites. From Web Accessibility:
The legislation referred to as “Section 508” is actually an amendment to the Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The amendment was signed into law by President Clinton on August 7, 1998. Section 508 requires that electronic and information technology that is developed by or purchased by the Federal Agencies be accessible by people with disabilities.
Obviously Section 508 is geared toward Federal Web sites, but it’s a good practice for all sites on the Internet. Blind people read Web sites and blogs with a machine called a screen reader that will read aloud what is on the screen. The screen reader reads left to right, top to bottom and will read any descriptions that are entered for images. You may have noticed that when you hover your cursor over an image, a description pops up. That is what the screen reader says aloud for a blind person.
I decided to do a little research to find out how I could make my blogs easier to be read by the blind and found this extremely handy post by the American Foundation for the Blind.
This woman asked if she could send me her photograph; she has always had her mother purchase her clothing but now that her mom is getting up in age she knows she needs to become more independent, and she also desires to express her personality through her wardrobe and choice of color. I never thought about it, but she is asking not just for colors, but different names of these colors that are used regularly by online retailers (blue can also be azure, cerulean, royal, cobalt, sky, robin’s egg, sailor, dusk, navy, indigo, ocean, lake, lapis, sapphire, etc…) so she can navigate shopping with her screen reader. Not to tell her what types of clothes to purchase, but terms she should look for (empire waist, rouching, bias-cut, bracelet sleeve, handkerchief hem, raglan sleeve, tea-length, besom pockets, tuxedo stripe, etc…) that are understandable to us, but without an image may be hard to imagine.
We all blog about fashion and beauty, well doesn’t every woman deserve to feel and look beautiful? Imagine how hard it would be if you were blind, and think how maybe you can slightly adjust your image descriptions, your text or your blog template to help a fellow fashionista who is working to be beautiful, despite a disability.
Other helpful sites: