Viewing vs. Using – Part 2
In Part 1, we discussed several problems visually impaired users face when using the Internet and, more specifically, Facebook. In this second part, we look at possible solutions to these difficulties.
Blind users obviously cannot see the user interface of the websites they visit, so they need to rely on other means to make their user experience more conducive. “Assistive technology” is the term broadly applied to any device that improves accessibility for visually impaired users.
The most common accessibility tool for the visually impaired is the screen reader. “It is a voice software which reads out everything on the screen except graphics.” Nicole explains, “I use it a lot. I depend on it. It helps me to navigate around.”
In order to make screen readers more effective, we must strive to write clean code, utilise <alt> tags properly, label hyperlinks descriptively, and always remember to caption any graphics or images, where possible.
This security feature can sometimes be a hindrance for the visually impaired when they’re attempting to sign up for an account. Facebook has tried to address this by implementing audio support for the scrambled CAPTCHA image.
Visually impaired users rely heavily, if not solely, on their keyboards to navigate around a webpage. The placement of elements on the page has very little significance to them, because they do not use a mouse. Facebook has a list of built-in short cut keys to help facilitate toggling between home and your profile. The How-To Geek compiled a helpful list of Facebook keyboard shortcuts.
Generally, the proper use of the <alt> tag is encouraged in order to provide a description of the images that are uploaded to the web. When uploading to Facebook, descriptions are a screen reader’s best friend, so including descriptive captions on the photos you upload is extremely helpful.
Uploading Videos to Facebook
Uploading a video directly to Facebook can have its benefits, but native Facebook video does not support captions, so this becomes somewhat unfriendly for users with visual impairments. As yet, there is no extra feature that could make it more accessible, so the suggested fix would be to upload the video to YouTube first — as YouTube supports captions — and then share the link on your wall with a description.
Besides the several ways mentioned here, Facebook is continually working to improve the accessibility of their site. It has a section in their Help Centre that specifically caters to users with screen readers and has a form that is designed for users to report accessibility issues.
Keeping accessibility in mind is a great way to improve the user experience. Not only does it ensure our websites are more accessible to the visually impaired, it also works as a way of keeping our source code clean and semantic! :)