Why is Accessibility Important? Written for Global Accessibility Awareness Day, May 17

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

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.
http://www.globalaccessibilityawarenessday.org

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8 Comments

Very Well Said

Very well put. Accessibility is the key. I was going to attend the American Foundation for the Blind's free webinar later today on this topic, but something has come up and I won't be at my computer. But I will definitely catch the archive presentation if and when it becomes available. I am happy to report that I'm finding VoiceOver and Siri on the iPhone to be a pleasant experience. There are still some things I need to get used to, but that will happen over time. Thanks again for this nice post.

Well put

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Very well said. This is exactly what accessibility is all about, and why it matters.

I've encountered this too

I've encountered this too! It's so annoying!! It amazes and annoys me too that something as simple as navigating a webpage can become undoable. I agree with you 110%.

Speaking of

I have to go to the Snap (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) office today, because the pdf file, that is supposed to be the work calendar I have to fill out to show how much I'm working is not accessible. There are a lot of text fields and stuff to fill out, and a grid to put the dollar amounts, but all I hear is (Edit, edit, edit, Check box 1, check box 2,) and no idea what I'm supposed to do on each one. You would think that things from the government, that are supposed to help the elderly and the disabled, would be, well, at least usable by them.

RE Ekaj

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Hello Ekaj,
Thank you for the nice comments. I am glad your training is going well. Also, thanks for the mention of AFB's Webinar. If you find their archive, feel free to post a link if you get time.
Best regards.

RE Dave82

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Hello Dave82,
Thank you for the great comment. I am glad the post is appropriate. Quite often people get distracted by making their tech as accessible as possible, but forget to check their entire distribution chain. What good is an accessible product, if you can not use their website to purchase it? The IP in question above had accessible services at the time of the incident, but somebody forgot to clue in their web master. Oops. Accessibility is not important for the sake of the tech. It is important for the sake of those who need access. If the effort isn't applied to the entire distribution chain, then it still doesn't allow access to that part of life. It seems like common sense when I sit here and write about it, but it really is just a matter of awareness.
Glad you enjoyed the post. I truly hope it helps the cause a little.
Best regards.

RE Dawn

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Hello Dawn,
Agreed! It was definitely a frustrating experience. And, I did end up purchasing services from their competitor. Not because their services were better, but because their website was accessible.
Thanks for the comment.
Best wishes.

RE JLove,

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Hello JLove,
Sorry to hear of your government struggles. I have had many of those also. Trying to get them to realize and fix the issues can be almost an impossible feat. Inaccessible required paperwork, front desk people who never had accessibility training, sometimes it seems like we have to jump through hoops to give them materials that they can see, or they won't accept it. Too often, they don't realize that they are required to do the same for us. It can be a real challenge sometimes. It sure makes one grateful when something actually is accessible all the way through. I hope you get it straightened out with them quickly.
Thanks for the great comment!
Best wishes.