Wednesday, 5 March 2014

I'm Not Blind, But I Can't See.

I've been tweeting about websites with small print this morning.

My motives for this are two fold - and has nothing to do with being a grumpy old woman!

1: There are a lot of people out there, not always with specific sight loss problems, who find reading difficult, and would find it easier to read websites and blogs if the owners made just a few simple changes. They may not have access to the things that would help them do the adjustments themselves.

I also have a sight problem - I'm not blind and I can see better when things are a long way away! (I need longer arms!) But I struggle to read many websites.

My problems are a combination of three things:

1. I have a fine nystagmus - a side effect of the conditions I have. This causes text on a page move around making words a moving target. The smaller the text, the harder it is to target it and read it. Large clear fonts help with this. Heavy patterns around a page or behind words make reading almost impossible.

2. The conditions I have also cause spasms and weakness in all the muscles around my eyes - this makes reading painful after a short space of time. Larger fonts can double the time I can read for. If I read for too long it will be difficult to keep my eyes open.

3. The fog that comes with the conditions I have, sometimes causes a form of dyslexia, including auditory dyslexia. (Listening for a long time can make words muddle). This is worse when I'm tired. It also means using text to speech isn't always the answer - I need either the words and the speech together, or the speaker in visual range as they are speaking. (It's why I dislike speaking on the phone)

There are lots of people like me out there. Not classified as blind or partially sighted, but still struggling to read stuff.

I'm thankful that with all my contacts, I've managed to put together a good armoury of gadgets and apps to help me carry on as normal. Some of my readers were probably quite surprised to read the information above! I'm able to hide it well.

Not everyone has the help I have found.

It doesn't take much to take away the need for so many gadgets and apps for reading on line. To make a blog or website visually accessible makes it easier and more pleasant for everyone to read. It's a win win situation!

In this blog I'm talking mainly about websites, blogs, and apps.

And here's what you can do to make things easier to read:

Does your website override the settings on a user's computer/device?
I have my browser permanently set to an 18pt sans serif font and my magnification at 150%. This allows me to read most blogs and websites...... unless.... the site overrides my settings.
Then I try to use the cmd/+ to enlarge what is in front of me, the page enlarges...... and the text stays the same! Some email settings do the same.
(cmd/+ is Mac speak - the combination of these two buttons enlarges what you see on a screen. Windows has similar button combination to do the same. Using the enlarge gesture on your mousepad does the same thing)

Check your settings and have a play, try using the cmd/+ keys on your site and see what happens - does the font stay the same? If you don't know how to change your settings, get a techy person to do it for you. If the web hosting people don't give you the ability to change this - contact them and introduce them to the idea of accessibility.

Does your website merge/overlap the enlarged text?
Some sites don't override the font setting, but the settings on the page mean that text, buttons and menus overlap making it impossible to navigate.  Or the column sizes stay the same and you and up with one word on each line!
(I get this on some HTML emails too)

Again - get someone to check your settings or talk to your host/provider.

How visually busy is your site? We understand that you want it to look good, but patterns that are visible behind text makes reading really hard. (Especially if the font won't enlarge!) Overly patterned borders tend to 'move around' on the edges of our vision, and so end up detracting from the text in front of us

What colours do you use? Some colours are generally accepted as not accessible; Red and orange being two of them.

What combination of colours do you use? Use a good combination of background colour and text colour with a reasonable constrast. Red on blue, as you know are horrible, but combinations of blue and green can be illegible to many too.

For mobile phones and tablets, it really helps if websites and blogs are set to work on mobile devices. (With the settings allowing devices to override font sizes etc) When all the settings work together, reading blogs on a phone is great! (Doesn't always work on Apple devices - they tend to do their own thing, which is why I own an android phone!)

If you use an app - does it allow user defined font settings, and does large mean large (For most apps, enlarging font means changing it from super tiny to very small). Does it also increase ALL the font? Social media apps that allow larger fonts don't enlarge it for writing posts, or on the name of the person who has posted on your time line etc. It only enlarges the post content. It doesn't seem to occur to them that if you need large font for one thing - you need it for it all!

Please lobby app writers about this - I do!

If you are a person who struggles with reading blogs - try using Evernote Clearly on your laptop browser. It won't work on visually busy sites or social media sites as it is primarily designed for blogs.
Using a 'read later' type app can help too as you can set fonts for reading later.

Check out the text to speech options on your laptop too. They're clumsy on an iPad and take a lot of getting used to - but have a go - it may work for you (I use them for the Kindle app if I feel I need to listen rather than just read)

I may come back and edit this and add more ideas, but that's all for now.

If you want to see some good examples of visual accessibility, take a look at:
Krish Kandiah's Blog
The Evangelical Alliance Website
The FIEC's Website
(I've been asked to check out some new sites.... so I might be adding those when they go live!)

Happy blogging/blog reading :o)

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