The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
The Forgotten Handicapped Audience
Why Your Website Needs To Accommodate The Handicapped Demographic
December 3: Disability Day, or the International Day of People with Disabilities, is a day that has been promoted by the United Nations since 1992. The aim of Disability Day is to encourage a better understanding of people affected by a disability, together with helping to make people more aware of the rights, dignity and welfare of disabled people, as well as raise awareness about the benefits of integrating disabled persons into every aspect of life, from economic, to political, to social and cultural. Disability Day is not concerned exclusively with either mental or physical disabilities, but rather encompasses all known disabilities, from Autism to Down Syndrome to Multiple Sclerosis.
Infographics for the Handicapped
When I first began Confessions of the Professions, I started it like any other website would start: with an idea. As you now know, if you are a daily visitor to this website, or if you have just stumbled across it, the name gives it away: Confessions of the Professions. Simple, to the point, with the purpose of the site being right in the domain name. If you work in a profession, you probably have confession! Go on, make a confession today about your job, career, workplace, passion, co-worker, or boss!
The website first began with articles, and this was great for a time, but then one day, someone submitted an infographic. This was unexpected, and right there, the decision was made to publish it, and it opened up a market to a whole new world. I processed it like any other article and previewed it. The article contained a summary and the infographic, but then I wondered: How does a search engine see this? A search of infographics yielded plenty from Pinterest, and search engines do a somewhat okay job at grabbing infographics, mostly from the information surrounding the infographic, such as the headline and keywords of an article.
The forgotten infographics of the Internet manage to end up in the “back of the Internet” when there is no text accompanying them, no content, and no context surrounding the infographic. What can a search engine do when it cannot really see a photo except try to use its meta data and any surrounding information, including the meta data from the website itself? This got me thinking, “Why not write out that infographic?” so that search engines could better categorize and “see” them on Confessions of the Professions.
The decision was made to write out any and all infographics, no matter what. Writing out an infographic can sometimes be an easy process, but in some cases, it is not. Some infographics are extremely lengthy and figuring out how to write out a graph, chart, or table takes some consideration, or might just get bypassed altogether. Writing out a simple infographic can take about 10 minutes or less, while writing out a more lengthy and in-depth infographic can take over 20 minutes or longer. There was also the question of the summary within the infographic. Why repeat it twice? Fortunately, many infographic summaries and text-friendly versions are usually slightly different. We are currently home to over 500 infographics and increasing. Over 500 infographics that I have personally read and written out for everyone. Regardless, it was done originally in favor of support from search engines. This, however, over time, would lead to an unintentional amazing and wonderful audience for Confessions of the Professions.
The handicapped, the blind, the autistic, the dyslexic, and many readers with a handicap who actually do go to work, have a part time job, or are just looking for information or to make money from a project they can work on while at home have come to this website. Emails received confirm this, with gratitude and thanks for making the website more handicapped friendly. The handicapped demographic includes people who hover over portions of text or simply click a button and have the entire website read to them, including my own mother, who is a big fan of this website (love you Mom!), as she is permanently disabled and in a wheel chair, with her disability also rendering her struggling to read books or longer articles, so she tends to stick to shorter, easier to read articles.
Summarizing The Internet for the Handicap
In order to try and make our website even easier to read for everyone, including the handicapped, we try to provide a summary of all of our articles in a feature we called Quick Glimpse, located on the left hand side of almost every article on this website, and an article was even written on the reasons why you should include a summary of every article on your website. It does take time to process an article, write out infographics, and include a summary of the article, but the time you put into a website is an investment of the amount of people you want to attract to the website who find it entertaining and interesting. Summarizing an article takes just a few minutes and requires just a few short paragraphs to give the concept and idea to the reader in less than 1-2 minutes.
Designing The Web For The Handicapped
A while ago, we decided to do away with our sidebar, making navigation as easy as possible with a fixed top bar that sits on the top of the website (at least, at the time of this writing). Our plans for design are likely to change the website a little bit, as each end of the year, we take a look at the latest web trends and designs, and then we compare and try to predict what web design is going to look like for the upcoming year, and we try to make it more appealing to keep up with the trends.
This year, our plans for design are minimal, but we were considering making the font-size slightly larger and accommodating all of our visitors, no matter what screen size or device they are on, no matter their age. The standard font-size used to be 12, which is now considered small for the average reader. Either that, or the average eye sight is just getting worse each year from staring at a screen for a few hours a day. For the most part, our predictions have been pretty good, but no one has ever told us that we were wrong otherwise and to change it back to the old design.
When the Internet was first invented, the average user could read and write, and eventually, typing was no issue at all. If anyone remembers the dawn of the Internet, back when you yelled at your mom for picking up the phone and knocking you offline, there was America Online. They were not only the early pioneers of the Internet, but actually began designing their product for the handicapped demographic, making it easier to understand their platform and providing the ability for accessibility. As the Internet has aged, so has our way of connecting to the Internet. A platform such as AOL is no longer needed to connect to the Internet, and most of us just pay Xfinity too much money for our precious Internet, but at least, they deliver most of the time.
Computers and Internet browsers would eventually become the sole reliance of taking care of handicapped needs. Microsoft and Apple would also be the great pioneers in providing this technology. According to the U.S. Census, 1 in 5 people are living with a handicap in 2010, or 19% of the population, or 56.7 million people in the United States. It is now 2016 and this number has likely increased to probably around 25% and close to 70 million people. This does not factor in the fact that Americans are not the only people with disabilities, but the amount of people with disabilities worldwide that have Internet access is far greater.
The World Report on Disability (WRD) states that over 1 billion people or 15% of the world is living with some form of a disability. This article also states that many people with disabilities are, unfortunately, not fully engaged in participating in society or rely heavily on assistance to engage within society. This does not mean they are home not doing anything. I can only predict that it means that a large amount of them with Internet access are using the Internet, looking for things to do, things to read, and in the case of Confessions of the Professions, looking for a job or resources to help them get a job, start a business, make money, or do something with their free time that is productive in society, even if they are not fully actively engaged in going outside.
Resources for the Handicapped
We also provide a Resources page to help all of our readers with anything they might possibly need including Addiction and Disease, Driving, Elderly, Emergency Disaster, Law, Labor, and Veterans and Disability. These resources were provided to us with the help of many organizations including EducatorLabs.org, PublicHealthCorps.org, AddictionCenter.com, Drugrehab.org, Disasterweb.net, Elderimpact.org, Forfamilyhealth.net, Rheumatoidarthritis.org, Thepreventioncoalition.org, Detoxtorehab.com, and PB Institute Addiction Treatment. We greatly appreciate what these organizations are doing for their cause and take pride in the fact that they have chosen to share their resources with Confessions of the Professions.
The Amazing Handicapped Woman and How She Uses The Internet
I interviewed a woman by the name of Tracy, who keeps busy as a mother, an ASL tutor, and a freelance writer, and also runs the website, www.deafblindconfessions.com. I asked her several questions about her disability to get an understanding of what it was like for her to use the Internet. Tracy is deaf and legally blind and has been since birth, with her eye sight deteriorating as she got older. By the look of Tracy’s website, if she did it by herself, I must say, as a web designer myself, she did a wonderful job. I love the beauty of simplicity and ease of navigation, and if there is anything her website portrays, it is just that. She has certainly designed it for a handicapped audience.
Tracy started using the Internet over 20 years ago and began with CompuServe, actually meeting her husband through a chatroom. She says that her major challenges when using the Internet are font sizes, wrong contrasting colors, “busy screens”, wrong background colors (red ink on black background, etc.), or picture or pattern behind print that can’t be read at all. When it comes to other challenges that she would like to see improvements with, she says she still has a hard time getting past captchas, even with the audio help, they are still hard to understand, and screen readers cannot really assist with them.
Tracy also says that websites should be and could be using alt text more often so she can understand what images are on the pages. She says that when she is visiting a website for a restaurant, they will put their menu on the website, but just post a photo of it, rather than any actual text, so she cannot even read it ahead of time, so it is basically useless to her. She also tends to make use of the Window’s Magnifying Glass tool to make the screen at 200% and sets her mouse to a larger inverted pointer (so if it is on a white screen, it becomes black, and if it is on a black screen, it becomes white).
Web Tools for the Handicapped
GetAccessibleApps is a company that offers useful and affordable software for the blind and will actually design customized software for blind users. For example, they offer CaptchaBeGone, which, in their own words: “CAPTCHA Be Gone solves this problem by securely detecting captchas on webpages, solving them, and copying the result to the user’s clipboard in a matter of seconds with the press of a single keystroke. It is not even necessary for the user to know the precise location of the captcha. No data, other than the captcha, is sent out, so the user’s personal information, websites, and other identifying data is secure.”
Considerations for the Handicapped
When designing your website, there is a large underrated handicapped demographic that needs to be taken into consideration. The handicapped demographic will probably be your most loyal audience and while they may not email you directly, they surely do appreciate the fact that your website has been designed to accommodate them. Internet for the handicapped begins with your website, with my website, with our websites. We cannot solely rely on the devices the handicapped use to make our websites accommodating, but we must take action ourselves to design for audiences of all types.
The perfect website design is always up for debate, but in regards to Confessions of the Professions, we try to keep to a very simplistic and minimalist design approach. Our work is never done as we always try to figure out new ways to assist people and make navigation as easy as possible. Whether you are a software engineer, a web designer, or a web developer, please educate yourself on the needs of the handicapped on the Internet, from the size of a button, to the font-size of the text, to the colors of font and backgrounds, to the length of content, especially infographics.
Every aspect of your website should note how an e-Reader and accessibility tools look and work. Sometimes, there are limitations on what the handicapped can do outside in the real world, but they shouldn’t have to be limited on the Internet. There currently are no real standards in place to force any of the Internet to accommodate the handicapped demographic, and this certainly does not stop any handicapped persons from using the Internet, however, if you are willing to go the extra mile for a handicapped audience, they will go the extra mile for you in becoming loyal readers and fans of your website.
Thank you to our handicapped audience for being with us and taking the time to visit our website.
We know you are reading and we appreciate you.