Bring disability access to websites, part two

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My new StoryMinders website is nearly ready! I’m excited to show off my films, educational presentations, and using arts for disability advocacy. I wrote here about how my site would be fully 508 compliant on May 1st. Click here to read my post about disability access online. Since making that grand claim, many things came to light. One big thing being that it wasn’t going to serve my own population of folks with brain injury to do that.

There’s actually a lot of information online about making websites accessible to people with cognitive disabilities and impairments. What a relief. I have trouble using some online features optimized for blind users. I also struggle with some things that most people I personally know aren’t bothered by. I didn’t understand why. The articles I recently found told me why. Shwew. It’s not just me; it’s my injured brain.

I’m going to set out a couple things here to chew on.

  1. Screen reader software tells a user what’s written or drawn on a website through spoken words or Braille. When you click links on this blog, new information opens in a new window. This makes things inaccessible for someone with a screen reader. The reader doesn’t orient the person to the new window. They’re missing lots of information.

If I don’t do that, I get lost on my own website. My stomach sinks to remember the first year after my TBI when I got lost online every day clicking on links that opened in the same window. Do I hit the back arrow? How many times? Do I open a new window? Do I paste a URL in? Which one? Where did I start? What was my original search?

Now, 20 windows are open. All I can do is turn the computer off to escape the crushing sensation. I have no trace I was ever online. I have no memory of why I had gone online. So this blog forces links to open in a new window even though I recognize a user with a screen reader now has limited access. Because I know other people in my club have the same problem navigating around one window.

  1. Pictures and icons. The more you have, the more tedious work the screen reader has. And the more winding around in circles the user goes through. But again, without them, my population has less access on the site. It’s not just about making your site pretty. Pictures and icons help us keep track and recognize when the topic has shifted. It takes some of the load off our minds. But I couldn’t think of what pictures to put in this post. So today, there are none.

We need more people to recognize disability access online. It is a key to achieving disability justice. Here’s what I mean. When we don’t even attempt disability access online, then we are ignoring people whom we know can’t use the site. This ends up being discrimination and exclusion for only certain people. It makes it seem like we feel users with disabilities don’t matter, or maybe don’t exist. We do and we do!

As you can see from this post, I don’t know if there is a fully accessible website for all disabled users. But there are many documented ways to work toward ever greater access all the time.

Let me know what you think. What makes accessing websites difficult or impossible for you? What could I do to make this blog more accessible to you?