Thing 6: Accessibility

First I read through the Web Accessibility Initiative – Stories of web users. I can’t help being struck by how ugly these particular webpages are. I really dislike all the contracted sections and it is very bland without images. There is a tension between utility and aesthetics in web design but for me this is too far towards utility. I’d really like to see a website that is both aesthetically pleasing, functional and accessible – I wonder how practical it is to do all three?

The stories featured and interesting and show a range of disabilities and technologies that can be helpful. I was drawn to Mr Jones story about repetitive stress injury (RSI) as I also works daily at a computer I can see how debilitating this condition could be, but also how useful the adaptations such as  “Voice recognition software to dictate passages of text rather than to type” could be.

With some trepidation, I test webpages I maintain in the  Website Accessibility eValuation Tool (WAVE). I’m relieved to find 0 errors. These pages are part of the University Website which uses a content management system (CMS)  in Drupal – so I’m assuming this builds in core  accessibility features such as using headings correctly. There are 3 Alerts – which all relate to ‘redundant links – this is because there are three links to the ‘Information Services Home’ page within the page.

I then go to take a look at the accessibility features on my Android mobile phone. I tried the TalkBack option, which gives some very irritating sharp ping sounds every time you touch something on screen, and also seems to set the volume very high. I then spent the next 10 minutes working out how to remove it, as I couldn’t work out how to scroll with this on! I was interested in text-to-speech output and found that this is installed on my phone. I like the idea of being able to have documents read to me, there is no option to do this in Chrome Browser. I tried installing ‘Pocket’ as that is whats suggested in the article and this did give me the option, though again the voice is very loud and tinny. It’s not quite as nice as listening to an audio book but I could see it being useful. There are more built in accessibility features than I realised – it would take time to get to grips with how they work and right now I don’t need them, but its comforting to know they are there.