Blind Authors, Blind Users

This week, several incoming emails to us have asked us to make our site more friendly for blind users (one of them referred to themself as “unsighted” instead of blind) who are using screen readers to use our site.

I noticed many of the large players (Google, AOL, Yahoo improve service for the blind) have begun making their sites more accessible… and this is no small task for richly-developed web 2.0 featuresets.

For now, it’s our intention to educate ourselves on how a screen-reader works and work on making our membership interface more blind-person friendly without sacrificing functionality or usability for everyone else. After we get that done, we’ll review the public site for subtle changes that can be made to make it easier for the “unsighted” to use

If you’ve got experience with making a website more “blind-person using a screen reader or braille-interpreter machine” friendly, please comment on this blog post with tips or referrals to the best resources we should be reviewing to accomplish this. Thanks!


Pamela Beers writes:

There are two sources addressing the issue of blindness and sight impairment as it relates to web design:

1. = Core Techniques For Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

2. = government regulations, articles,

I’m checking into these in more depth as well.

Hope this helps.

Comment provided July 21, 2006 at 7:35 AM


Lance Winslow writes:

I did notice the other day on the Microsoft Site, that there were FREE DOWNLOADS that allow Webpages, Documents, eMails to read themselves to you. I downloaded one of them for time saving factor, but I thought to myself what an awesome tool for some who was blind. It is a cool program, You can go to a web page pick from about 12 different voices and turn it on and it reads to you. Then you can click onto another program and it just keeps going until you turn it off. Kind of like Internet Radio Stations.

It is just super to see all the accessability options out there to help connect the unconnected and those who have other challenges to stay in touch with all of us.

Comment provided July 21, 2006 at 12:49 PM


Ed Howes writes:

Thank You Lance.

Being a highly distracted internet newbie, I had assumed Microsoft’s additional accessibility features had to be purchased, so I never visited the site. Early on I investigated screen readers but not enough to decide on one to try. I am using the standard accessibility features to read with my half eye. The other only knows light and dark. But my focal distance is about 4 inches with 20 point light gray text on black field. I have been concerned about that 4″ distance with a CRT type monitor, doing irreversible damage to both eyes and wishing for an lcd/ led type monitor. Now I’m thinking if I just used screen readers most of the time, I would expose myself much less to the CRT and learn to use one or more screen reading programs.

Lance’s reason for trying it is the same point I was making about audio articles. They give everyone a break from reading text, which some of us do for long days over the course of weeks.

Comment provided July 21, 2006 at 3:21 PM


4 writes:

You know Ed you bring up a very good point. WHAT IF….Yah, I know, here I go again….What if…you could click on an authors articles and press; “Read it to Me” and then after it was done, you could press “NEXT” and then have the computer read all 7555 articles of mine? They would get one heck of an education that way? You could really learn a ton of information. And if they went to the section or Category perhaps they could have each cateogy read out loud one by one. They could pick the NEXT article in that category for the author or NEXT article in the category, or SKIP. Heck, think how much you could learn that way? And it would not matter if you were Blind, partially sighted or even doing something else at the time you see? It frees up the visual section of the brain which uses 60% of your mind’s bandwidth. So you could just close your eyes and think. Wow, that would be an incredible accessibility tool for ALL HUMANKIND.

Comment provided July 21, 2006 at 11:06 PM


Ed Howes writes:

Yes Lance, I see,

Just not as well as before. :-) Don’t forget to add a double click pause feature so we can answer the phone and pick up where we left off. A friend gave me a cut and paste screen reader long before I went on line. It had the choice of two male voices, two female, speed and pitch. I wrote myself a love letter and adjusted the reader until it was just right. :-) Lance, if you give this much more thought, lots of folks might soon be going to Lance’s Audible Articles Dot Com. Consider this in 2006: You are very well read. You know good content when you see it, on a wide range of topics. You could keep all the garbage out of your directory with very strict guidelines and personal approval. Thus, you would have the best audible directory from start up forward. I dare you. :-)

Comment provided July 22, 2006 at 7:47 AM


Lance Winslow writes:

A double click pause feature would be needed especially for those who use VoIP !!! Vonage; ‚¬“who-who, who, who, who‚¬ and I tell you that those commercials are really getting to me with the Tag Line; stupid things people do!

Well tThank you for the compliment Ed. Oh, by the way I am in St. Louis today, holy hell the weather here was intense. I could not send out my emails by satellite, but wished to return your personal email to my account about the Voice Read Software. Here are the Download pages, Here are some links.

You will have to determine what is best for you.

Indeed I am well read and well observed and could easily dictate my articles off the top of my head with tons of examples and with all the new Software out there it could be translated into other Languages and dialects. Oh speaking of which SpeechTEKI 2006 convention this year ought to be awesome. I am quite impress with all the new stuff due to DHS funding thru DARPA and In-Q-Tel and what it is doing for Speech Technologies. Also with Microsofts Speech Server and Nuance commercial and personal computing software upgrades it appears things are really cooking along from when Gates at the CES Show started sending emails thru his wristwatch via Voice Technology. Great stuff.

I am an avid reader of Speech Tech Magazine, stemming from an interest in automated call-centers, customer ordering and scheduling before retirement. Non of it was ever good enough to use back then, but someday in the future it will be, as Venture Capitalists, Government, Investment Banks and Large Corporations are funding the research and development forward now. It is the next step in computing and communication, and really it is the natural humans like to communicate anyway; via vocal cords.

Actually, I have considered the Audio thing, even mentioned it to Chris, for a possible idea for the future of his site. I have always listened to tapes, books on tape, radio talk shows of worthiness and feel I could do as good or better and perhaps in many cases offer more relevant and reality based information as well.

An audio directory makes a lot of sense, I totally agree and believe that if it were done correctly it could be the next big thing next to the . Why? Well, simple because 80% of the World cannot read or write. I suppose I would entertain such a business plan for an Audio Directory or start such a company. Audio takes up lots of bandwidth so you would have to be Backend loaded on the server side, but that is not too much of an issue. Good idea actually, maybe I should hit up In-Q-Tel for some cash, it would be a good way to get information into obscure places all over the world and really level the educational playing field and fulfill the No Child Left Behind and Digital Divide motifs? Thinking out loud again of course?

Comment provided July 22, 2006 at 10:08 PM


Programmer #1 writes:

Or you can just use the Opera browser! Little known features of Opera is the ability to speak the content of pages, and also accepts both voice and ‘guesture’ commands.

Comment provided July 23, 2006 at 2:00 PM


Ed Howes writes:

Thanks for the Opera tip,

A brief screen reader search I did yesterday made a convincing case for switching to a Mac as OS X has an integrated voice over feature and all Windows screen readers are add ons, usually with problems.

Comment provided July 24, 2006 at 7:25 AM


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