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Internet for the blind?
Anyone know how the blind see things on the net?

 3:55 am on May 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

I heard once that blind folks see the text located at the "side" of a page. Is this true?

I've done some reading that suggests that they use programs that will read the content out loud, including image alt tags and link title tags.

I am most interested in the side text option (placing text at -500px for example). Text hidden from the normal user, visible to the blind and the bot. I'm sure it's not a new idea, but it's something I've played with and want a real answer. Also, if it works like that, there is potential to really guide a blind person through the site in an efficient manner, and not frustrate them into leaving.

1.5 million blind internet users [figure from [journalism.nyu.edu...] in north America would be a nice little niche!



 12:28 pm on May 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

There is a browser for the blind call JAWS. It has a free limited download so you can try it and see how it works on a site.

Your idea about the hidden text has good intentions, but could be veiwed as spam by the SEs.


 3:36 pm on May 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hunt around. I saw a review of different screen readers. Some read different things (like if you have display:none or visibility:hidden) and so forth. If you were going to rely on screen readers reading text that would not show up in a visual browser, you should test extensively I would think.


I heard once that blind folks see the text located at the "side" of a page. Is this true? ... Text hidden from the normal user, visible to the blind.


If you are going to design pages for the blind, they might get irked at language like that. I think it would be a little like designing pages specifically for women and saying "When the user enters the site, he should enter his postal code so that we may find a gynecologist in his area". In either case, I would find it rather alienating.



 4:03 pm on May 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Somewhat tangential, but still related: what are the user-agent strings for screen-reader browsers? Or are they just plug-ins to existing visual browsers? I don't remember every running across a special user-agent string in my logs.


 4:11 pm on May 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

If you are going to design pages for the blind, they might get irked at language like that.

I was just using that as an efficient way to get my point across. I don't think I'd say to a blind visitor, "Congratulations! You can see the content created specifically for blind people! Hope you enjoy looking around my site!"

Yeah... not going to say that.


 5:28 pm on May 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Oh, I understood that, I just got sort of a laugh out of it.

I was also pointing out how some of these reflexive shorthand patterns we use to express ourselves can, in themselves be a problem. It can be thorny. For example, I often respond to emails with "Great to hear from you!", though of course I haven't heard anything. If I were writing to a deaf person though, I would try not to ask "Have you heard from Bill lately?"


 12:38 pm on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

It can be thorny.

All the more so when some blind friends tell you "I saw that" instead of "I noticed" while others will correct you... :)


 9:26 pm on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

I guess I have to chime in as a legally blind person. I don't use screen reader software. I did train blind users on them and other devices for about a year. It was in the age of Windows 3.1. It reads what is on IE or whatever program you have. It is not just for the Internet it is for the computer. There is a very small number of blind users that have Braille displays. This is a device that your keyboard fits on top of and extends out an inch or so. There are 80 cells made up of 6 little holes each. Underneath these holes are small plastic blunt pins that extend and retract depending on the letter that is displayed. Sometimes they use 40 char versions and sometimes they use a portable device that has 20 or so.

You can think of it as a program that reads what is on the screen line by line. The best way to help a blind person is to have a good sitemap. Another way is to have a short menu at the top of the page. Have the site name first and then have a short menu below that with the sitemap being the last one in that short menu.

Alt Tags:
If the picture is just text have the alt tag say exactly what the text says. If it is a picture I would start out "this is a picture of all the continents with the words webmaster world.com in front of it."


 1:52 pm on May 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Thanks for helping clear up the different ways of viewing the internet available to blind / low sight people.

I can see why you would want the menu structure to be high in the page. It must get tiresome reading the entire page top to bottom. Do your readers only function sequentially, or are you able to jump around text some? Reading these posts for example... it'd take a while to get all the way to the bottom of some of them.

Thanks again for the response.


 3:01 pm on May 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

> If I were writing to a deaf person though, I would try not to ask "Have you heard from Bill lately?"

...and yet in BSL (British Sign Language) you would sign 'heard' or 'spoke' (Bill spoke you, has?). Both heard and spoke have signs that reference the ear and mouth.


 11:50 am on May 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

Wow, interesting stuff. Never thought about site design for blind / low sight people. I am wondering what exactly these people can see, I thought if you were blind you could not see a thing?
What is this bot you speak of?


 5:26 pm on May 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

When he says bot he means the spiders that the search engines use. You can write a program that goes out and reads web pages for you and store whatever information you want that the bot read.

Blind does not always mean totally blind. As a matter of fact the number of people that can not see anything at all is very small.

You have people that can:

1. Not see anything
2. Only detect light and dark
3. Only see blurs and some colors

Then you have the legally blind that are anywhere after number 3 up to 20/200.

I have a hard time fitting in because I am right at the top (20/400) I function better than my stats. I am not blind and I am not sighted. I call my self blind. I can't drive and that sucks. My friends and family often forget how bad my vision is. I often here "he can see better than he says”. That’s not true I perceive better than I can see.

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