Technology has given us all some great tools to both publish and consume information. Our blogs allow us to connect with distant cousins and others researching the same people and places we are. Technology has also given people with disabilities access to most of the same information. But, with just a bit of effort on our part, we can help improve that – especially when they are visiting our blog sites.
There are special devices and software that help make life easier for the disabled. We’re already familiar with closed-captioning for television programs which provide people with hearing issues the ability to keep up with what’s happening on-screen. Did you know that you can add captioning when you build your own movies?
Blind people use a special program called a screen reader to browse the web. It reads the content to them and offers special commands for navigating a page or site. People with physical disabilities – especially our wounded service men and women – use voice recognition software like Dragon Dictate to dictate content and perform commands.
All of these tools are amazing, but they work even better when we do our part. Here are a few suggestions. . .
Provide a text description for every image you include in your blog post. Screen reader software will read the information found in the “alt” attribute included with the image code, giving your blind visitor an idea of what is displayed here. Here you see the Attachment Details panel from the Add Media screen in WordPress. Notice the simple description included in the Alt Text field. It doesn’t appear anywhere in your post, but is part of the HTML code that is read to blind visitors using their screen reader. It doesn’t have to be a long description – just enough to let the reader know what’s there. Alt text has another use too. It describes the content of the image to search engines – just in case you’re trying to attract anyone’s attention . . .
If you’re using CAPTCHA features on your comments to prevent spammers, make sure your CAPTCHA capability offers an alternative for people with visual impairments.
Do you ever tell your readers to click the red box or the green text? How will your blind readers find it? It’s good practice to define your links with a description of what they will find at the other end. (Example: Download the family tree file.)
Notice there’s also an entry in the Title field. You’ll find title fields for media (images, photos, attached documents) and for links. Ever wondered what it does? It is used by various assistive apps and devices to allow disabled people to move from one hyperlink to another within your text. A voice command like “click family tree file” is a lot easier than having to verbally “tab” through every previous link on the page to get to this one.
These are just a couple of suggestions that take very little effort on your part but they make your blog site and posts much more accessible to people with disabilities. There’s a whole section on accessibility in the Yahoo! Style Guide. You can visit the online edition or you can keep a print or Kindle copy nearby at all times.