aDesigner is “a disability simulator that helps designers ensure that their content and applications are accessible and usable by the visually impaired. The new version adds support for OpenDocument Format (ODF) and Flash content; presentation simulation function for ODF documents.” Ever since the first graphic designers started to try to bend HTML to their will, people have complained that many web sites subvert the standards that early web architects designed to make navigating easier for the visually impaired. Read more for more discussion…A recent Computerworld Article laments the state of web browsing for the blind, explaining how the nifty software and hardware that the blind use to navigate the web is constantly thwarted by fancy design and the reliance on text-as-graphics, Flash, and CAPTCHAs.
A discussion of the article at Slashdot highlighted one of the comments made on the original article: “one reader said the disabled should ‘get a grip’ and maintained they ‘have no more right to demand that others provide for their needs than I, as a diabetic, have a right to demand that sugar no longer be used.’ Should Web sites and software makers do more, or does the reality of today’s economics dictate that the blind/disabled will continue to struggle and learn to live with it?” This led to a predictably lively discussion.
Hopefully tools like aDesigner will help those web developers who care about accessibility to design thoughtfully, but with the desktop software tide turning toward more web-based apps, and the web browsing moving relentlessly away from its text-based roots, where does this leave the visually impaired? Will technology come to the rescue, perhaps with specialized browsers that organize the information more effectively for screen readers and braille hardware? Or should the blind “get a grip” and be content to classify the internet’s content into the same category as Van Gogh’s painitings: something they know other people can behold and enjoy, but is out of their reach?