Cyberclinic: Why are blind people ignored by websites?
Wednesday 23 April 2008
After last week's column about Captchas – the little visual tests that websites deploy alongside password requests to prove that you're human – reader Jo Franks pointed out how maddening they are for blind people. When I raised this issue on the Cyberclinic blog, Thomas Reid mentioned that a Captcha at blogcarnival.com in effect stops blind bloggers from joining in with their project. This obviously isn't a deliberate ploy. But it's far from unique.
Captchas are a small part of a whole spectrum of accessibility problems. Blind users normally rely on screen-reading software packages that recite out loud any text and links that appear on the screen; while free screen-readers are available, it's only the more sophisticated ones – such as Jaws 9.0 – that are easy to use, and these cost more than £500. But even Jaws starts to trip up if web designers don't bother to follow accessibility guidelines.
A study in 2004 showed that 81 per cent of websites failed to meet the most basic criteria for assisting the visually impaired; an organisation called WebAIM has produced a list of just 16 guidelines. But despite this, they've seen little overall improvement over the past 10 years.
In the UK, a case is coming to light of a blind American Express customer, Richard Godfrey-McKay (inset), who used to access his account details using Jaws, but since Amex implemented changes last December he's been stripped of that ability. Jaws now handles his statements, and the RNIB is supporting him with a possible action under the Disability Discrimination Act. While a number of unsuccessful cases have been brought against inaccessible sites in the past, the fact that Amex has actually withdrawn his facility – albeit unwittingly – may give this one more weight and, hopefully, strike a small blow for the visually impaired.
Email any technology gripes to email@example.com, or join the discussions on the blog at www.independent.co.uk/cyberclinic. Currently under discussion: Why do people I don't even know keep asking to be my online "friend"?
Life & Style blogs
Google Maps hides image of Android robot urinating on Apple in surprisingly insolent Easter egg
KickassTorrents down: new Isle of Man domain taken offline just hours after launch
Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
What do the emoji on Snapchat mean?
Blueprint Map: Can you guess the name of the city from its outline?
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£75000 - £85000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the largest and fastes...
£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Installation / Commission...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Bridgend based software de...