How to make a website blind-friendly?

By Roman Berezhnoi July 1, 2021 159 views

How to make a website blind-friendly?

The sole motive of this article is to provide all the web designers and professionals in this sector to develop websites that can be easily accessible for the blinds. It helps them to connect with the natural world and can enjoy it similarly as ordinary people. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that approximately 254 million people suffer from vision impairment around the world. It also states that nearly 37 million people have permanent loss of eyesight, and 217 million people suffer from moderate to extreme difficulties in vision. 

In the UK, a statistic from 2014 shows that nearly 360,000 citizens have been diagnosed as partially sighted or completely blind. But for RNIB, these statistics and reports are void, as they focus on the fundamental ground theory. They mentioned that there are people who do not diagnose themselves for specific reasons, who do not even register, and people waiting for their turn in treatment. Therefore, the exact numbers of people having vision difficulties are unknown. 

Approximately 12 million people 40 years and over in the United States have vision impairment, including 1 million who are blind, 3 million who have vision impairment after correction, and 8 million who have vision impairment due to uncorrected refractive error.

According to the German Federation of Blind and Visually Impaired People, the number of blind people in Germany is about 145,000 and the number of partially sighted people can be estimated at approximately 500,000.

The modern world and its web-related technology are efficient for partially or blind people that help them to connect with their family, friends. They feel more attached to their loved ones, which casts away the depression. When people can connect with these visions impairment people, they feel the love and warmth of their families. 

Almost 3% of UK citizens still suffer from the poorly designed navigating system in the website. These websites are built in such a manner and design that the blinds cannot access them or navigate within the menus. Some websites also have an intricate set of menus that creates confusion for a partially or blind person. Sometimes, the website forgets to mention the add-text in images or even designs them in a format that they find challenging to read. 

This article works as an investigative piece that gathers limited information and sources that helps to curve out ways for keeping the website overly technical. The prime objective of the article is to provide web designers and professionals with references and information that will help them develop a website effective for the blind in every aspect, which includes the color blindness factor. 

Types of Assistive Technology that Helps in Using the Internet

The Gov.uk carried out a survey and presented the results of the assistive technology survey in 2016. In this survey, the Government Digital Service has reached out to 713 users of GOV.UK and enquired about the devices, assistive technology, and web browsers they use to navigate the website. 

Here are some results of the survey:

  • Readability 15%
  • Screen magnifier 30%
  • Speed recognition 18%
  • Screen reader 29%
  • Other 8%

In the survey, 30% of people with partially or permanent vision impairment use screen magnifier application. This application helps in magnifying the texts to the required level so that these people can interact and read them. Nearly 38% of the people using screen magnifiers also use the screen reader software with the ZoomText feature. Supernova and MAGic are the two most popular software that work as screen magnifiers. 

Again the same percentage (38%) of the people uses the screen reader to access GOV.UK. As per Gov.uk., a screen reader turns the screen’s text into a Braille display or reads all the necessary content from the website. In the screen reader application, there are two significant features: Text To Speed or TTS, which helps to read out the content of the website, and the other is the screen reader software. 

JAWS or Job Access With Speech is top-rated software that blind or partially vision impairment people use. The JAWS is followed by VoiceOVer, a unique feature in Apple devices that provides an auditory description of all the elements present on the screen and also provides essential hints. It also ensures the need for a keyboard, Gesture, Braille display. 

Austin Seraphin, a computer programmer who is blind since birth, can achieve the peak of his life with the help of the iPhone’s VoiceOver feature. It also shows how the feature has such an impact on his life. 

Another powerful software that works similarly to VoiceOver is NDVA or NonVisual Desktop Access. The NDVA is an open-source and free to download software, which you can put in a USB to use on other devices. 

Google is the world’s biggest search engine with over 54% market share, does not support any assistive technology that alternates the text into speech for the blind. With this noble feature, Safari has only 17% of the market share, which is an interesting fact for all. 

Some of the most common and used assistive technology and browser combinations are:

  • NDVA with Firefox
  • JAWS with Internet Explorer 11
  • VoiceOver with Safari

All these stats depict the process of using the internet by blind and visually impaired people. Remember this survey is only based on people using the GOV.UK. Therefore, professionals must design and find out ways that will help to enhance the features of the website to improve the accessibility of these people. There must be a high range of menus and the ability of the website to support the assistive technology. 

The question arises: What are ways in which you can enhance the accessibility of the website that supports assistive technology for visually impaired people. 

F5 Studio’s web developers (who provide professional web development services) advised all the necessary needs to do so.

Advice for Enhancing the Accessibility for Blind and Partially Sighted 

Web designers and other professionals have to know their audience, including people with different abilities and disabilities. Web developers consider the accessibility criteria at the end of the development, but they must keep in mind the accessibility for the partially or blind people from the foremost step. This helps to create a website that will allow visually impaired people to access websites easily. 

Web designers and developers can follow the WCAG 2.0 guideline and norms to develop their website, making it easy for blind people to navigate the website. There is also WAI-ARIA Authority Practices 1.1 (working draft) that facilitates the developer with designs to create an accessible website component. 

Though these guidelines provide a primary idea to the developers to create a website, there are people with disabilities who still face difficulties. It is recommended that web designers confront people with visual disabilities and have a clear idea of their needs first hand. This will help the designers to ensure all the difficulties they face to navigate the website and products.

Some Common Difficulties in Navigating the Web

According to the researches, here are some common problems blind people faces:

  • The website page does not contain the heading
  • Issues in a screen reader to access a particular part of the content
  • No alternative text for images
  • No logical sequence regarding the heading
  • Accessible description missing in the buttons
  • No marking of interactive elements with correct HTML elements
  • Associated levels are not included in the inputs 
  • No accessible description for the certain links

There are differences in the difficulties of blind people compared to the partially sighted people for specific factors in the website. 

Enhance the Experience for Color Blindness People

As the problems of the color blindness people are different from the parts or blind people, here are some issues they face:

  • When the text is over the background, people having color blindness face difficulties in reading the text as the background color does not match with the contrast of the text.
  • Ensure to convey the information in some other visual manner, instead of solely relying on the color to render information about the text. This helps color blindness people to read the text and understand it. 
  • Try to avoid colors like red or green as this color combination affects the sight of these people. 
  • Remember to use high contrast within the text and background color. According to WCAG 2.0, AA mentions the contrast ratio of 4:5:1 for any standard text and 3.1 for larger text. For large text, 14 points with bold text is recommendable or 18 points or sometimes larger text than usual. 

Type of Content that Facilitates People with Screen Reader

The criteria of writing the concise and clear text for the website must also be followed in writing the content that the screen reader can alter to visually impaired people. 

As a screen reader translates text to speech for a definite structure of content, the Gov.uk provides detailed norms for writing the content so that the content is worth reading. 

This helps to break down the intricate English words that sometimes are very complex to understand. As some words such as take a “bow” or tie a “bow’ are similar, it helps the screen reader to acknowledge and pronounce it. Due to this, English can be a complex language during this situation. 

Individuals can customize advanced screen readers according to their needs and preferences. There are screen readers that provide dictionaries with features to add the pronunciation of a new word or alternate the existing word that works best for these people. 

The more the content is made accessible for a particular group of people, it becomes difficult for others to understand. When the features for the blind people are added to the content, the regular people find several issues and difficulties to acknowledge the content. When an abbreviation such as V A T is written in this manner, it helps the screen reader translate it to blind people. Still, individuals with dyslexia or people having low literacy cannot connect with it. Therefore, it is difficult for a dyslectic person to read the content properly, though it gels well with a screen reader. 

Here is a significant solution by the Gov.uk on this matter:

They suggest that the contents must not be written explicitly for the screen reader, but must-have features so that everyone can read it. It also advises using appropriate punctuation, standard conventions for abbreviation and acronyms, words for every audience sector, and correct spelling and grammar. 

Using Automated Tools for Evaluating the Accessibility

To test the efficiency of 10 free automated testing tools, the Gov.uk have taken up the measure to create “world’s least accessible webpage”. The webpage has 143 accessibility failures, which was then segmented into 19 categories.

After testing, the Gov.uk found out that the page involves common failures such as blank link test, flashing content without warning or complicated language, images without alt-text. 

In the below section, there are some results after evaluating the automated testing tools. 

  • The Google Developer Tools was able to evaluate and identify only 17% of barriers.
  • Asqatasun proved to be most effective as it identified 41% of the barrier that can only be possible if individuals run manual inspection prompts
  • All the tools were unable to identify 29% of the barrier (42 barriers out of 143)
  • The tenon was able to count most error messages and warning (37% of the barriers were found)

Gov.uk recommends using the testing tools as a spelling checker, as it helps to identify the error, but not in isolation. This enhances the efficiency of the testing tools. 

If you can combine the automated tools with user testing as well as manual checking, it helps to pick up each accessibility issue in the website and content. This will provide you with the best automated tool to check and identify the issues that can cause possible problems to every standard of people. 

Anyway, if you need a blind-friendly website, you can order professional website development services. It means you entrust your web project to an experienced team of the UI/UX designers, web developers, and content writers.

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