Creating Websites For the Blind

Everyone wants their website to be elegant and striking. As a result, most web writers go in for striking graphics, elegant layout, and cutting edge technology. None of this is any good if you are writing for the blind.

If your client group cannot see your site, the only elegance they will be looking for is simplicity and navigibility. Fancy graphics will just be annoyances in that they slow downloads. Layout at best will be lost when translated by verbal browser or screen reader. At worst it will cause confusion and error.

The same is true of cutting edge technology. Most screen readers and browsers in use today by blind users can’t even handle Java script. It sounds strange to say, but stick with technology at least one step behind the cutting edge. Blind users are a small, specialized group. By the time a technology is converted for their use, it is no longer cutting edge.

There is an old saying with the acronym, “KISS”. That means, “keep it simple, stupid.” The simpler sites work better for most screen readers and browsers.

Be very careful if you are using one of the commercial html generators. Most of these have foibles that make their output virtually incomprehensible to the screen readers currently in use.

Make use of lists, like the unordered list that follows. This is especially important when separating links. In summary:

  • Stay somewhat behind the cutting edge of technology.
  • Go for simplicity rather than elegance.
  • Limit graphics and when you do use them, always include an ‘alt’ statement.
  • Separate bits of information clearly as in this unordered list. You can also use some other form of bullet. If you use a graphic, as I often do, make sure you include an ‘alt’ statement, such as ‘alt=”bullet”‘.
  • Test what you’ve written. Go through the check of accessibility. This site also has very good and extensive tips for webwriting for accessbility. Keep current. The world does change.
  • Be careful of html generators.
  • Most important, don’t give up. The more use of the web there is by means of screen readers and verbal browsers, the more writers of this software will be encouraged to further development to serve the needs of your user group.

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