Accessibility (was Re: [Gllug] Argos site)
john at sinoda.demon.co.uk
Wed Jul 31 17:34:49 UTC 2002
Warning - OT Ramble follows.
Okay bit of background. Both my mother and brother are registered blind. This
means they have very limited vision. Two different sight problems not linked.
To add to this I am also going blind through a third condition so it is
somewhat a personal crusade for me.
My mother is too old to use the internet, computers, calculators, just about
anything so thats not a problem. And I will not help her because she nags
enough at me anyway about anything and everything. Mothers eh!
My brother however uses the internet. This is done via both screen readers
and screen magnifiers. A little awkward but it does work. Screen readers are
wonderful if you have a page of text to work through. Browsing and changing
from page to page is confusing with a screen reader so he uses a screen
magnifier. Slow but functional.
At the blind class I attend - I teach sign language to the blind, those that
have some vision tend to favour screen magnifiers and also use magnifying
glasses or Fresnel sheets as well - It is much easier for them to move a hand
held magnifier around a screen than the computer controlled magnifiers.
Those that have bought computers normally spend time setting up colour and
font schemes to override the website defaults. Some of the combinations are
very strange but it depends on the individual (I like amber writing on black
There are huge political arguments within these groups. The current
argument is over braille. UK braille is different form US. We have limited
punctuation and all one case whereas US has more punctuation and both upper
and lowercase. Braille council wants us to change to US system. Most users do
not want to have to relearn. If you cook the chances are you do not use
braille as you burn away the sensitivity of your fingertip testing the food.
The RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) has some papers about
computer use. One of which covers Linux and probably quite rightly says
unless you have a strong interest then this is not the way to go.
Unfortunately it is not always so easy in the UK. Blind accessability is
taken care of by local authorities. These usually have a blind unit (help the
blind not blind themselves) and this takes care of simple things such as
telling you where to get alarm clocks with no glass fronts (you can feel the
hands to tell the time). They also link in to computer units. These are
willing to show you how to use computers from basics to database creation.
They also act as a showcase for new technology.
This is where I have a problem. I am convinced they gain commission on sales.
This means they have no incentive to show any free alternative. This is not
limited to Linux but also in the MS Windows arena. Rather than show you how
to switch on the screen magnifiers that come with most OSes they almost
pressurise their clients to buy screen magnifiers such as ZoomText (starts at
£300 and the only difference in my copy to those that come with the OSes is
the inverse video mode). There is also a certification program for resellers
who have to train (pay the fees each year) so they can then say they are
qualified to sell you their wares come along and setup the equipment, and
charge everythime you need something changed.
My brother attends more football matches (just about every club in Europe has
people trained to talk you through a match) that I do. He normally tells me
the world news. He rarely uses the radio, but I suspect that would be almost
giving in and he is too stubborn. Do I help him out with Linux? I set him up
a Red Hat 6.2 machine a while back updated with KMag and now refuse to go
near it. His machine - his problem. And he gets to drink more beer than me,
The accessability law in the UK is limited to educational services so far
under "the Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Disability Bill". After that
it is just a recommendation of what to do.
The easy way is to have a text only page with no default fonts or colours set
in search engines and also quicker for those of us that just want the info.
Professional web designers should always follow the commonsense guidelines at
Me - I am waiting for Gnome2 and a decent screenreader.
Okay I apologise for the ramble.
Abusive email's please send off list.
Gllug mailing list - Gllug at linux.co.uk
More information about the GLLUG