It always amazes me, how many things I can still do with adaptive technology, even after losing my eyesight. Sometimes just as amazing, is how many things I still cannot do.
The darkened laptop sits off to the left, silent for a moment as I retrieve my coffee from the living room. Returning to a chair, situated in front of the old MacBook Pro, I was going to look up a service provider on line.
My fingers find and press Right-Option-s, my shortcut for Safari. After just a moment, I hear "Open Safari, tick, tick, tick." As I wait for the Home page to load, I jump to the Dock with VO-d and hear "Dock." Then I press "t" to jump across to TextEdit and hear, "TextEdit." VO-Spacebar starts it loading, then the laptop says, "Open TextEdit. Then it starts describing a new window. Instead of opening a file in the dialog that appears, I press Command-n to make a new document. The voice coming from the dark screen of the Mac says, "New document, Untitled.txt."
In the empty document, I type, "internet service provider," the laptop echoing each key as I press, reading each word when I hit Space. I don't like to type my search phrases in the web browser's address bar, the computer keeps reading all the suggestions instead of what I am typing. Moving back to the front of the phrase with the Arrow Keys, I hold down Shift-Option and use Right-Arrow to select each word, then press Command-c to copy the entire phrase. Flipping over to Safari using Command-Tab, I move the VO cursor into the Address Bar and press Command-v to paste, then hit Return to search.
I leave the Address Bar and navigate to the web area of the window. Pressing Left and Up Arrows at once switches the Rotor to "Headings." I begin arrowing my way down the web results, jumping from Heading to Heading. There's one that sounds good, lets have a look. I press Up and Down Arrows together to click on the link.
The provider's web page loads. The computer voice says, "Welcome and thanks for your interest in our excellent services. Home, link."
Okay, I'm focused on their Home link. I press Left and Up Arrows at once to switch the Rotor to Headings, but alas, it is not an option. This web page was not laid out using standard web development practices. Not wanting to get lost somewhere down the page, I begin right arrowing my way across in a linear fashion. The voice says, "Link, link, link." Oh great, some unlabeled links. I have no idea where those may lead. Continuing on, "button, button." And now some unlabeled buttons. This just keeps getting better.
Right-arrowing some more, I get to a spot that has some information inside. The computer reads a long paragraph of PR info, but still nothing about any particular service. Moving a bit further, I find a button that only says "more" when I land on it. Beyond that is another nav-bar of unlabeled buttons and links. So far, this is not a very good experience.
Hoping I am doing the right thing, I move back up to the More button and press VO-Space to activate. Another entire web page loads and the whole thing starts again. No headings here either, no labels for buttons or links, no logical layout to the web page that can be used for navigation. Well, there is nothing for it, I start right-arrowing my way through every item on the page until I find some text that says, "As a new subscriber, just look at the great price you get for the first year."
Since I haven't heard any price yet, I move once to the right using right-arrow. The next thing I land on says, "573offer_39xl_FGPrice dot jpg." After that are more unlabeled links.
So their great price is only shown as an unlabeled graphic. My screen reader can only read the file name to me. Well, I guess I won't be using these guys as my service provider. I can't even imagine what their support section is like. Hmm, I wonder what their competitor's website is like? Well, there is only one way to find out.
Why is accessibility important? I guess I will be discussing that with your competitor.
Keep in mind, it is not about accessing technology. Adaptive Tech is only a tool. It is about accessing life.
Global Accessibility Awareness Day, May 17th.