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Web Accessibility Through the Virtual Eyes

Image of Stephanie Bolinger smiling in blue shirt

Most individuals take something as simple as surfing the web for granted, but all of us stuck in the dark surely do not. I was born with sight, but almost seven years ago I became completely blind.

To put it into perspective, think about when you need to pick up some groceries or a last-minute birthday gift. You would probably hop in your car and drive to the nearest store, grab your purchase and drive back home with minimal problems. With me, there are no last-minute shopping trips. If I don't plan my day in advance, then I end up eating noodles for a few days or my friend doesn’t get a birthday gift.

 

The Dread of Online Shopping

When it comes to online shopping, just thinking about it fills me with dread. Although my screen reader is a tremendous asset by being my virtual eyes, it is not all that I rely on to use the web. What is that other thing? If the website that I am trying to buy from is not accessible, then I either can’t make my purchase, or I end up with something in the mail that I didn’t mean to order. In some instances, I’m able to find exactly what I’m looking for, but because of the way the site is set up my screen reader is not able to locate the payment fields. This payment issue is just one of the struggles that I encounter daily while trying to shop, book trips, or do research.

 

Planning a Dream Vacation

Let’s play a game: imagine for a moment that you’re finally able to take that fabulous mountain vacation that you have always dreamed of taking. Now sit at your computer and close your eyes. Could you book your entire trip without opening them once? “NO!”, you might say. You can open your eyes now.

I might get on this website and begin looking through drop-down details for the mountain cabins. It might be stuff like my cabin’s location, the number of rooms, and extra amenities that I would like. I definitely want a jacuzzi on my cabin’s deck, but like usual, I can’t use the dropdown boxes with my software.

But I really want to take this vacation! If I can’t use the website, I’ll normally decide to find a phone number or email to book it that way. But there is no email listed, and instead of reading out the phone number one character at a time it reads out by the billion, millions, thousands, and then hundreds so I have no clue what the number is. Just listen for yourself:

 

 

Third Party Applications

Like most people in Florida, on beautiful nights I love going out to listen to some good music. Unfortunately, at times it is difficult for me to find out what is going on around town. If a local business or town website has a third-party company that they use to do their calendar events, reservations or ticket purchasing, I am unable to participate in the current activities. Most of the time, those third-party companies are not in compliance with accessibility needs.

 

 Give Me Eyes to See

Speaking of descriptions, I need good descriptions of pictures. It is nice to be able to read a description of images to help me imagine the venue or the fun all the people are having. Like on a restaurant’s website, which is normally very photo-heavy. Maybe I want some local food delivered from my favorite local café. But while I’m looking at the menu, there aren’t any descriptions next to the pictures. How am I supposed to know what I’m ordering if there aren’t any descriptions? Also, often there are no prices listed on many sites, so today I am (literally) blindly choosing the meal that I can afford. Descriptions and prices are important to me. Most people would dislike having someone reading the menu to them like a child or having to ask how much each meal costs. I dislike it too.

 

 Bottom Line

Web accessibility is extremely vital to a person like me who lives with a disability. My hope is that every business owner will open their minds to the possibility of web accessibility, not just for me, but for them also. If I, and the rest of the blind community, can have the access needed to make a purchase, that business owner can see the ocean of new customers who will finally be able to buy their products and services. Everyone wins!

 

At this time, I am going to have to ask you to check this box to Phone number playing by the billionth, million, thousand, and ones verify that you are not a robot. Yeah, I’m not able to do that either.

 

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