For Accessibility, Seeing is Believing

I was thrilled to see Matt Bailey interview Lee Laughlin in his accessbility blog. I know Lee as well, and instantly liked her. She’s warm and funny, but in her role as an event planner, always professional, on top of everything, gracious to all her guests, and has a tough streak I admire. Do not ever tell Lee she can’t do something.

Matt’s interview with her focuses on her sight problems due to albinism. She is the one I referred to in another blog post, where watching somebody struggle to use a website in a usabilty workshop, who is seeing impaired, left a huge impact on me.

I am also seeing impaired. Without glasses or my bi-focal contacts (my brain handles different messages from each eye, in addition to the position of my head), I can not see. The first time I saw what I really look like was when I was 23 years old, when I took off my glasses at a party and someone was shocked at how different (better) I looked without the “coke bottles”. She took my picture, mailed it to me, and I stared and stared at it. I had trouble looking at her. She had pretty eyes. That’s not what stared at me every day in a mirror. Mirrors showed a blurry blob with long dark hair.

I love the beach, but I don’t go into the ocean unless someone is near me who I trust. There were too many episodes of me being left in the water, unable to find my way back to the blanket and my friends forgetting I couldn’t see.

Lee’s eyesight is much worse. What she faces is described in Matt’s interview. It’s a perfect reminder that accessibility is not just for physically handicapped, blind or deaf Internet users. There are all types of limitations, including being color blind, or coping with a disease that renders mouse movement impossible or painful to do.

Lee’s visual preferences are different from my own. She once told me that she likes serif fonts better than sans serif, because serif is easier for her to see. That means she’s okay with Times Roman or Courier for example. I struggle with those fonts, especially online.

In her interview she says,

“I prefer a black background with yellow or white text.”

I, on the other hand, can barely stand to sit in front of a web page with black or very dark backgrounds.

The sheer scope of the job of making web pages readable is enormous, given that sight problems vary so widely.

Hats off to Matt and Lee for sharing her story. Matt has other interviews in his blog that are also worth cuddling up to your computer for.

One Step Closer For Accessibility

The Usability Professionals Association (UPA) has announced its appointment to Telecommunications and Electronic and Information
Technology Advisory Committee (TEITAC)
, a U.S. Access Board
Federal advisory committee.

TEITAC will provide recommendations for updates of accessibility standards issued under section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and guidelines under Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act. These standards cover technology procured by the Federal government. Members of this advisory committee include representatives from over forty industry, disability groups, standard-setting bodies in the international community, and government agencies.

When a blind person arrives to help explain what its like to use websites, there’s bound to be some education. Designing A Website With Blind Users In Mind is one of those opportunties.

Everything that I talk about is from experience as a Blind computer user and a as a person who has trained Blind users how to use their computers.

The discussion has been helpful for everyone who reads it, from search engine marketers to website creators.

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