Web Accessibility for Blind People

Blindness

The world wide web makes daily life a lot easier for most of us but there are also people who cannot fully take advantage of the benefits of the web such as blind people. Fortunately, things are changing and blind people can use the web just like everyone else although web accessibility for blind people is far from ideal.

Since the web is primarily a visual media, blind people obviously cannot use it without specially designed technology. They typically use web browsers which are specially designed for blind people or the so-called screen readers - software programmes which work by speaking the text. Some, however, also use the refreshable Braille display which, like its name suggests, converts textual information into Braille characters. In addition to enabling blind people to understand the content on a particular website, screen readers can also “detect” text that is highlighted or differently coloured, read pre-selected text on demand, “determine” the location of the cursor, etc. by which they make the web fully accessible to blind people but only under condition that the websites they are accessing are designed with the use of codes that can be “read” by screen readers.

According to the UK law, all UK websites are legally obliged to ensure that they are accessible to all users including those who have disabilities such as blindness. Websites that have links, applications and security procedures that cannot be “read” by screen readers are according to the Equality Act of 2010 that replaced the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act unlawful. In practice, however, this means that websites should be written in a valid HTML code and that images, maps and other visual forms of content should be accompanied by text links.

Despite the law, ethical standards and business opportunities (according to some estimations, about 20 percent of web users have a disability which poses them an obstacle in accessing websites which are not adjusted for disabled people), not all website owners have made their websites fully accessible for blind people. This is partly related to the fact that blind people form a small percentage of disabled web users and partly due to misconception that making proper adjustments to improve web accessibility is complicated and expensive. But it is not complicated nor expensive. As already mentioned earlier, websites should basically only be written in HTML code to make them accessible for blind people using screen readers or other type of technology that “reads” for them while surfing the web. Fortunately, many web designers use HTML code without being aware of its importance for web accessibility for blind people.

In the end, it is important to mention that web accessibility for blind people does not affect the attractiveness or usability of the website for non-disabled people in any way. And considering that proper adjustments that make a website accessible for all users regardless of their disabilities is not expensive nor complicated, website owners really have no excuses to postpone the improvement of accessibility of their websites.