Do the sight impaired like your website?

The world has millions of sight impaired people, Australia has at least 300,000, and other countries have an order of magnitude more.

Should they be discriminated against by web designers? Most countries have laws that give an emphatic NO! In fact, there have been court cases where companies have been sued for not providing for the disabled.

So, how does an ordinary “sighted” web designer discover if their proud works are suitable for those with vision impairments?
Up till now, you just had to follow disability guidelines and hope that was enough.

Now along comes IBM, they have just released a beta program called “aDesigner”, and this little program will pull in a page of your choosing, and simulate the experience from both a “blind”, and a “low sighted” perspective, and it will then grade your site on both, and give you a run down on what needs changing to improve the experience.

Having just run this program on htmlfixits main page, I have discovered both good and bad news.
On the “Blind” simulation, we did very well and got an A, so no problems there. However, on the “Low Sight” we scored only a C, which puts us in the same class as Yahoo, MicroSoft and many other big sites. The only reason we were marked down for low sight, is because our text is to small and is fixed in size. That should not be too hard to fix, and Don and myself will spend some time rectifying that issue ASAP.

The aDesigner program is free and can be downloaded here.
You will also need the SWT toolkit, which you can download here.

Its pretty simple to install, but currently only Windows version is available. Since this is a Java application, you will need to have a recent version of Java JRE installed on your machine, so if you don’t already have one, you will need to head over to Sun and get yourself one. (also free.)

Its well worth finding out if your sites are usable to those with less then perfect vision. Because it’s always possible that one day you could be one of those very people.
(Keep in mind that up until a few years ago Christopher Reeve probably had not given much thought to the plight of quadriplegics, but as you will have seen, he certainly does now.)

UPDATE I have it on good authority that the IBM app works fine on Windows 98, from someone who has done it. So it doesn’t just work with 2000/XP as it says on the download page.



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