How to set up a website for blind users
I could not find any current numbers of how many blind people there are in the US and world. The most recent numbers were from the 90's and they said 10 million. Greg and I both agreed this number has to be way larger now maybe around 15 million. There are more and more people getting on the Internet every year and the blind population is no different. With the baby boomers hitting their late 50's there are more and more people with visual impairments. I have no data to prove this but I think the Blind community is more apt to buy stuff online than normal users because we do no have access to transportation like our sighted friends do. Also the Internet opens many door to the blind that were not previously there. When a blind person goes to a store somebody has to tell them what is in front of them and what the prices are. With the Internet we can do this by ourselves.
There are 2 types of blind people. Ones that can read print and ones that cannot. The ones that can not read print need an alternative to the monitor. They have 3 options.
- Screen Magnification software
- Larger Monitors
- Flat Panel mounted on an arm
The largest group of blind users will be those with low vision. If you make a site where a low vision person can easily read then you have made a website that normal users can easily read. I have often said that advertisers should hire people with low vision to help with design. Most ads are seen for a very short period of time and from a distance. If you stick a person with low vision in front of your ad and they donít get it then there is a good chance a sited person that is not paying close attention is going to get it. It is very hard to read a site that has a weird background or text that has very little contrast against the background. Donít lock down the print size so we canít use the browsers built in ability to enlarge text. (In IE: View -> Text Size)
Most people donít know that you can do almost anything on a computer without a mouse. This is what blind people are doing. It is a good idea to learn how to navigate your site without using a mouse. Set up tab orders in your code.
There is a ton of information on the Internet about blind people. I found a bunch of information at The New York Institute for Special Education and The National Federation of the Blind
This is not to just be an information post. I would like to discus the things mentioned in this article.