I was asked today by my manager about the design of our new website to ensure that it is compatible with my JAWS screen reader, as this is an important aspect of our work especially as we specialise in sensory impairment and know the difficulties sight and hearing impaired people can face. I was innocently asked whether it would be better to have information across the top of the page which could be tabbed to or listed below in boxes – I confess I had never actually thought of the screen ‘looking’ any different than to the way I perceive it and the way my screen reader portrays it! I quickly went onto a website and asked my support worker to describe the layout of the web page I was ‘looking at’ and was amazed to find that although I was ‘seeing’ it as a list, the information was in fact across the top of the page. Amazing!
I should take this opportunity to let you know that I am totally blind and have been for 36 years and so have never seen a computer screen. In fact I confess the nearest approximation to this would have been the game Pong which sadly I was absolutely no good at as because of my eye condition, Retinitis Pigmentosa. The problem was the ‘ball’ on the game kept disappearing from view and I would just insanely move the ‘bat’ up and down the screen in the hope that it would at some point come into contact with the ball and let me play! (I had similar problems when playing real tennis at school!)
I think it only fair at this point to say that technology is an amazing thing with apps such as ‘Tap Tap See’ and ‘Colour ID’ which can help sight impaired people to access the world to as close an approximation of reality as possible - that is if you are a techno-pro! Sadly everything comes down to cost, however if you can afford a smart phone to access these incredible apps or individual pieces of technological equipment (please see RNIB website) then life can be a little easier. I do confess to preferring the human interaction and speed of just asking someone for the information I require whether it be is this my blue jumper or has this milk gone out of date yet?
A word to the wise, we sight impaired people do have a terrific amount of sight in reality whether it be insight, foresight or hindsight, it all comes in very useful!
Happy New Year.