Understanding Blind Users

Noted: Monday, July 12, 2010 at 21:24:46. Words count: 686.
Last updated: Saturday, July 17, 2010 at 22:21:39.

Trying to follow Web accessibility recommendations without an understanding of its issues is useless. We have no logical reason to do the great things. Doing trial and error against the checklists are frustating. Directly reading a bunch of technical standards rules is very confusing.

Meeting accessibility standards is suggested by legal and human rights in some countries. We don’t have to build a new standard. Difable–differently-abled–people in this worldwide need equal access to the Web. We can learn from other countries. They should have the same Web browsers, screen readers, voice browsers, and fast or slow Internet connection.

To understand the need of the difable, we should know how they use the Web. Check this W3C document titled How People with Disabilities Use the Web. Can’t find the real-difable person behind you? For learning process, not testing purposes, browse the Web with these combinations:

  • use screen reader or voice browser, then close your eyes.
  • only keyboards, no mouse.
  • turn off images, javascripts, flashes, and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).
  • turn down monitor contrast.
  • try with touchscreen and small screen.
  • try Fangs–screen reader emulator, a Firefox extension.

How do you feel? Is it easy to access your blog? Is it in a logical order of the structure? Is it easy to understand the purpose of your content?

For the testing and conformance levels of accessibility, semi-automated checkers and expert reviews (Dani Iswara .com) are not enough. User testing is more apropriate.

Understanding the best practices

What is the best resources other than W3C documents? Recommendation from difable users for sure. One of them–blind users–will be cited here. The article titled How to Make Your Blog Accessible to Blind Readers from American Foundation for The Blind (AFB.org) telling some quick tips:

3. Avoid the Dreaded "Click Here" or "More…"!

People who use a screen reader to visit web sites will often tab from link to link, skipping over your carefully crafted explanatory text. It’s a quick way to scan the page and get a sense of what the options are. "Click here" is purely mystifying, especially when heard over and over again…

But remember the calls-to-action rule. There always an exception.

Some blogging services allow you to display the opening sentences of a long post and then link to the whole post with an automated link that reads "(more…)". If there is more than one such link on the page, you can see the problem: more what? Most blogging tools allow you to customize that link to provide more information to the user, which will make your site more accessible. An additional bonus: Descriptive links make it easier for search engines to find your content.

While users hear only 'click here' repeatedly, they have no idea for its meaning. Blind people would not know what a hyperlink would do until they clicked or activated it.

The point is a logical content. Based on semantic structure. I have posted logical content evaluation via Fangs in this unessential blog previously.

4. Put Your Blogroll on the Right-Hand Side

Blind users find top and left-hand navigation bars annoying because the screen reader starts at the top of the page and reads from left to right. It is very time-consuming to listen to the same list of links every time you visit a page. You can get people right to your latest post by putting your navigation links on the right-hand side.

If you are wedded to left-hand navigation, then place a tiny 'skip link' at the top, so blind users can jump to the new content. Just don’t forget the anchor!

Do screen readers read from right to left also?

7. Don’t Force Links to Open in New Windows

Coding your links so that they automatically open up a new window can be very disorienting for a visually impaired user. Only the most recent versions of screen readers give blind users any indication that a new window has been opened. Popping open a new window also resets the back button, effectively "breaking" it. Avoid the use of target="new" in your links.

So, we know their reasons. We may continue to building the accessible blog now, or not. :)

Dani Iswara, [myfirstnamelastname]@gmail.com.

5 comments to "Understanding Blind Users"

  1. Rudy Azhar

    what point are not detected on my blog?

  2. dani

    Rudy Azhar,
    check it first using manual self-assessment and semi-automated tools such as achecker.ca and WAVE. Then ask audience to review.

  3. Rudy Azhar

    dani,
    so many error and warning in my blog, make me confusing!
    in WAVE has detected 4 accessibility errors and in achecker.ca
    known problems (5), likely problems (51), and etc….

  4. dani

    Rudy Azhar,
    in WAVE, it is stated clearly.
    In achecker.ca, focus on known problems is enough for the Level AA conformance.

  5. Pengecualian Aksesibilitas Web – Unessential Weblog

    […] sini’, dan ‘unduh’. Agar tidak ambigu. Untuk jelasnya, silakan kunjungi tulisan Understanding Blind Users di Dani Iswara .com. Pengecualian pada pertimbangan target pencapaian rata-rata klik dan […]