Being blind on the web

This is an interesting article about a Silicon Valley guy gradually going blind, and how he’s dealing with it. Also a great video about an Australian journalist who’s blind.

It’s often occurred to me that it would be good to learn how to use devices blindfolded now, instead of waiting for the dreaded accident etc. when sight is lost. My phone is supposed to have a lot of accessibility features, and one of my goals is to be able to use it without looking at the screen. Have never quite gotten around to it, though, but it would be handy to be able to use it that way even now.


It would definitely be helpful for someone to learn how to use this technology so they are ready for if/when loss of sight happens to them. Then people who have spent years using computers and the Internet won’t feel suddenly cut off from an important part of their lives.

But I think it would also give those of us who are web developers a better sense of what visually impaired people have to go through to use the Internet. And as a result, we would probably do a much better job of making sure our websites are properly accessible. It would be much more effective than mindlessly memorizing a set of rules and guidelines to follow.


Yes, of course. Apple devices have a very handy app called VoiceOver, but jeesh it’s hard to use, so I always get a little way in and then bail out, because I don’t have the patience to learn how to use it. Wish I did have the patience, though. :slight_smile:

Though it will cost you money, if you use Windows, give Dragon a try. You can navigate a computer with Dragon, not just dictate.

Speech rec users experience some issues which are quite separate from those of screen reader users-- buttons with icons + hidden “accessible” text for example. We’re often told as developers that the following should be accessible:
<button><span class="offscreen">Close and return to Menu</span><i class="fa-foofoo-bar-x" aria-hidden="true"></i></button>
Making a button showing an X for example.

Sighted people have a good chance of guessing what it does (x to close, delete, or remove is one of the few icons generally used everywhere for approximately these commands), screen reader users hear the full button text, and it’s a button (and we’re assuming it works to close the whatever using Javascript).

But as a speech user, you have some issues:

  • you’re not sure what name, if any, the developer gave this thing. Luckily in this case we named it starting with the word “Close” so possibly saying “click close button” is enough.
  • since so many developers use anchors here, it may not even be a button. You don’t know if “click button” will highlight that.

It ought to be a focusable as well-- I see developers using anchors to do button work sometimes have their href’s stripped out (because there’s no link destination).

<a class="closeFancyDialog btn">X</a>

is not focusable usually.

A Dragon user can do a few things: try to highlight the clickables (which get numbered) and then click-by-number, or they can put focus somewhere earlier on the page and call the Tab key until they reach the clickable, or they can activate a mouse grid. You divide the page up into halfs (or parts), moving the mouse into smaller and smaller areas until it’s where you want it, then you can click the mouse.

Obviously that last part’s a pain in the butt if you have to do it a lot.

In any case, I’m still learning Dragon and actually have to retrain it because headsets with microphones are killing my ears, so it’ll have to do with my laptop mike instead. :confused:


I have been meaning to give Dragon a try as well. I understand it takes some time to train the software. How long does it take before it can reliably pick up your speech?

Sounds like it’s time to stop Dragon your heels, then. :stuck_out_tongue:

It’s a long time since I used Dragon but I believe more recent versions require no training for an individual’s voice but work virtually straight out of the box.

I’ve got both Dragon Naturallyspeaking 14 and Dragon for Mac 5. In my experience I did not need to train either on my voice (apart from the initial calibration) but the Windows version is far superior to the Mac version.

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