Friday, May 20, 2005

Accessible Blogs

There's an interesting article from the American Federation for the Blind entitled Is blogging accessible to people with vision loss? Their answer, sort of.

The AFB reviewed the Blogger blogging service (the service that hosts this blog), the Bloglines RSS reader, and 4 individual blogs in the JAWS screen reader. For would-be bloggers, Blogger creates some problems registering, as it requires one of those "type in these letters" graphics, as a security precaution against automated registrations. Screen readers can't read the letters on graphics. The "advanced setup", which is screen-reader accessible, requires a lot of technical information, and is really meant for those who choose to host their own blog on their own server.

Bloglines did better in the testing. Aside from a few graphics, almost everything was screen-readable and had proper text labeling. Bloglines has a blogging service as well, which also passed, except for, again, a few unlabeled links and graphics. (Read the actual article for more.)

I use a Firefox extension called Fangs which emulates a JAWS-like screen reader. I get a text "reading" of my pages, so that I can have some idea of how my pages will read outloud. Interestingly, it completely failed for Bloglines. Fangs doesn't seem to be able to handle frames, which JAWS must be able to handle. It's a very interesting experience, to see your carefully formatted material rendered as pure text. I highly recommend the experience, using Fangs, JAWS, or some other similar program, for any webdesigner.

I am glad to say that my actual blog page did read pretty well. (Though, wow, are there really 165 links on the main page!) I will have to test it with real JAWS some time, just to hear it and to find out the differences. I would assume that if someone set up the Subscribe by email with rssfwd then they could get all the posts in their accessible email program.

If any of my readers are visually impaired, or do accessibility testing, I'd love to have a discussion about how make this blog, and all the other DE services, more accessible. Are there accessible IM or chat clients that you use that we could test together?

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