The Challenges of Deaf Blind Internet Users
Without your eyesight and sense of hearing, you may think you’d be unable to browse the Internet, let alone use the computer.
Our friend Ruby has however proven that a day of a deaf blind person can include these activities. Yet although deaf blind persons like Ruby have the assistive technologies they need in surfing the Net, they still find difficulty in accessing certain web sites.
Here, Ruby joins us one more time and shows us the challenges faced by deaf blind persons as they use the Internet.
Not Enough Time
Ruby finds a web site where people can write about their thoughts on books and other publications. She wants to join this community, but first she needs to complete an online form.
She fills out the online form and is now in the last fields. Then suddenly, the form refreshes and Ruby’s cursor goes back to the top of the form. She tries to check if her information is still there but it’s all gone.
She wonders if there’s something wrong with her computer or her browser. But they’re perfectly okay. This problem was caused by the time limit on the online form.
As a security feature, some web sites put time limits on their forms. The user has to finish and submit the form before the time limit. Otherwise, the form refreshes, deleting the information which the user has already entered.
Ruby has to feel and read the site's text on her Braille display, so she naturally takes a longer time to fill out online forms. So when a form has a time limit, Ruby and other Braille display users may not always be able to meet it.
There are a number of solutions to this problem. First, the developer of this site should clearly state that there is a time limit for completing the form. This gives users an idea of what would happen if they fail to meet the time limit.
Next, there should be an option to extend the time limit. For instance, when Ruby reaches the time limit for completing the form, the page may display a message box telling her that she has reached the time limit and that she can extend the time by activating a button. Alternatively, the developer may consider removing the time limit as there are other ways to ensure the security of the site.
Never-Ending Search for Content
Getting some interesting news from her friends, Ruby visits her favorite newspaper site. She wants to read for herself the details of those particular events.
Ruby has been visiting this newspaper site for almost a year now. She’s quite happy with it since its news articles are thought-provoking and are easy to understand.
But Ruby faces one major challenge when she’s using this site. There are just too many blocks of content before the actual articles. There are links, images, forms, ads--you name it.
This requires her to press the down arrow key multiple times before she can reach the start of the article. Ruby tries to find something to go directly to, such as a heading for the title. But this isn’t available.
Ruby loves the site’s content, so she often puts up with this problem. But we all know that she doesn’t have to, right? If you owned this newspaper site, you can simply put a skip navigation link at the top of your web pages.
A skip navigation link lets users go directly to a certain location in the page. You can create a skip navigation link which users can activate to go quickly to the news article without having to pass by blocks of content above it. This way, persons like Ruby can quickly access the article they want to read.
Text That Changes, and Changes, and Changes...
Ruby’s washing machine broke down. Deciding that it’s time to buy a new one, she goes online to visit an appliance store’s web site.
She goes to the page for washing machines. “Oh cool!” She says to herself when she found a section that displays promos for washing machines sold by the store.
She reads on her Braille display the promo. But before she can read the full details, the text changes into a different promo. She tries to read that too but after a few seconds, it changes again.
“Is this site trying to confuse me?” Ruby jokingly says to herself. She very quickly tries to read the details of the current promo and proceeds to contact the store via email. It would’ve been more cool though if she could properly read all of the available promos.
A good solution to this is to significantly lengthen the time for each promo to appear. This lets users of assistive technologies read the changing text before another text takes its place. Also, this allows web designers to keep the way they want their content to be displayed.
Other Challenges Faced by Deaf Blind Internet Users
Similar to what I always say in previous posts under this series, the issues above are only some of the challenges faced by Ruby and other deaf blind persons. They also share most of the challenges faced by blind individuals, and most of the challenges faced by deaf persons.