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In a world driven by digital innovation, the internet has become an inseparable part of our daily lives. Many of us use the internet to navigate content, use business services and access entertainment, but, for blind people, the digital world presents unique obstacles.
There are more than two billion people worldwide who are blind or have low vision, so, without the right digital accessibility measures in place, much of the internet is a closed door.
This blog explores digital accessibility and identifies some of the ways that assistive technology can meet the requirements and expectations of people that are blind. Before we dive in, we’ll acknowledge the considerations surrounding terminology, identity, and language within this context. By addressing these aspects, we can gain a deeper understanding of the diverse perspectives of blind individuals, paving the way for more inclusive discussions.
Person-first and identity-first language
When discussing the language used to refer to people who are blind, two commonly used approaches are person-first language and identity-first language. Both approaches aim to promote inclusion for people with visual impairments while recognizing their unique experiences.
Person-first language places emphasis on the person rather than their disability. It prioritizes the individual’s identity and humanity over their visual impairment. In this approach, the term “person who is blind” is used to acknowledge that blindness is just one aspect of their identity and does not define them entirely.
Identity-first language emphasizes an individual’s disability as an integral part of their identity. This approach uses the term “blind person” to highlight the importance of disability in forming a person’s identity.
It’s important to note that there is no universally accepted preference for either person-first or identity-first language among blind individuals. Personal preferences may vary, and individuals may have different perspectives on how they wish to be referred to.
The spectrum of visual impairment
Visual impairment encompasses a spectrum of conditions, each with its own set of characteristics and implications. Terms such as partially blind, partially sighted, and legally blind are used to describe varying degrees of visual challenges. Here are some of the distinctions among the more commonly used terms:
This term typically refers to individuals who have some degree of vision loss but still have residual sight. They may experience significant visual limitations but still retain some ability to perceive light, shapes, or colors.
Similar to partially blind, partially sighted individuals have some remaining vision but with significant visual impairments. They may require visual aids, such as glasses or magnification devices, to enhance their remaining vision.
Legally blind is a specific legal definition that varies by jurisdiction. The vision of a legally blind person refers to individuals with visual acuity of 20/200 or less in their better eye with correction, or a visual field limited to 20 degrees or less.
Assistive technology for blind people
Digital inaccessibility has a profound impact on blind people, and, with 98.1% of home pages alone being inaccessible, businesses need to close their inaccessibility gaps to create better experiences for blind users. This is where assistive technology for blind people plays a key role.
Assistive technology is a vital component to ensuring an accessible website experience for blind users. Specifically designed to assist individuals with disabilities, these innovative products for blind people empower individuals to navigate the internet with increased independence and efficiency.
Let’s explore some key areas where assistive tech plays a significant role in enhancing the online experience for blind users:
Screen readers are software programs that convert on-screen text into synthesized speech or braille output. They allow blind users to audibly or tactually perceive the content displayed on a computer or mobile device. Screen readers interpret web elements, including text, links, headings, and buttons, and provide auditory or braille feedback to facilitate navigation and interaction.
Braille displays feature small, dynamically changing pins or cells that rise and fall to display braille characters. This provides help for blind people through tactile access to digital information, including web pages, documents, and messaging applications. By connecting to computers or mobile devices, braille displays enable blind people to read and navigate through digital content using their sense of touch.
Voice Recognition Software
Voice recognition software allows users to control their devices and input text using their voice. This technology is beneficial for blind individuals who may have difficulty using a traditional keyboard or mouse. Voice commands can be used to navigate websites, dictate emails or documents, and perform various functions, providing a hands-free way to interact with digital platforms.
Magnification tools are solutions that enlarge on-screen content, making it more visible to individuals with low vision. These tools enable users to adjust the size, color, and contrast of text and images, facilitating better readability and comprehension.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
OCR technology converts printed or handwritten text into machine-readable text. It allows blind users to access printed materials by scanning and converting them into digital formats that can be read by screen readers or displayed on braille devices.
Although assistive technologies designed to make websites accessible to blind people primarily cater to their specific needs, it’s crucial to recognize that these tools have broader benefits beyond the blind community. Although many people who are blind use these tools, they should not be seen as products solely beneficial to blind people.
Assistive technologies also provide significant advantages to people with diverse disabilities.
By considering the needs of multiple disability groups and incorporating inclusive design principles, we can create websites that are accessible to a diverse range of individuals, fostering a more inclusive and equitable digital landscape for all.
The role of people who are blind in assistive technology
Blind individuals should not merely be passive recipients of assistive technologies but active agents in its design and development.
“Nothing about us without us” is a powerful slogan encapsulating the principle of inclusivity and active involvement of communities in decisions that directly impact their lives. With these insights, businesses will gain firsthand experience and a deep understanding of the challenges and needs faced by individuals with visual impairments.
When embarking on the journey of making websites accessible through the implementation of assistive technology, it’s essential to prioritize the inclusion of disabled individuals within the development team. This inclusive approach ensures that the team is well-equipped to address the specific requirements of blind users, resulting in more effective and user-friendly solutions.
UserWay: making the internet available to all
At UserWay, we live and work by the principle of “nothing about us without us.” Our team consists of individuals of all abilities, ensuring that our technology is developed with firsthand insights and experiences. By actively involving individuals with disabilities in the creation and design process, we ensure that our solutions are truly representative, inclusive, addressing the real needs of the communities around us. Find out more about our advanced AI technology to help build more inclusive online experiences for everyone.
Answers to Common FAQs
What is web accessibility, and why is it crucial for blind individuals?
Web accessibility ensures that blind individuals can access and navigate websites, making online information and services inclusive for all.
What are common assistive technologies used by blind individuals to navigate digital content?
Screen readers, braille displays, and refreshable braille keyboards are common assistive technologies used by blind individuals.
What are the key considerations for web developers and designers to ensure their websites are accessible to blind users?
Web developers should provide alternative text for images, using proper heading structure, and ensuring keyboard accessibility for seamless navigation.