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Monday, 23 February 2009

Downing Street's website circle of hell

Sad to report but the blogging platform I'm using appears to be letting down disabled readers.

I was emailed by one that they'd attempted to comment on a post but were unable to because the alternative to the spam-preventing 'captcha' word verification wasn't working.

Well, I just logged out and tried it and it wasn't working for me either. It just 'hiccuped'

So I've complained to Blogger but in the process noticed that they don't seem to respond at all to accessibility issues. Have a look around the Google Group.

Other things about Blogger in this regard have irritated me for a while, such as not adding a simple field to add Alt tags to images (you have to rawcode). Hardly rocket science.

Wordpress does have this simple field, and link titling - are they the better option if you are serious, but lazy, with accessibility? Or something else?

Captcha seems to be a particular pain in the rear for those using text-to-speech.

Robin Christopherson, head of accessibility at technology access charity AbilityNet, recently examined the Number 10 Downing Street website. While he found it comparatively accessible (in a 'low-bar' field) it still had:
  • 'click here' links, and - the horror!
  • auto-start videos, with unlabelled control buttons
What the latter means is that blind users are confronted with Gordon Brown drowning out their own audio controls and cannot work out how to turn it off. Sounds like one circle of hell.

What my correspondent complained about in Blogger with captcha is also happening elsewhere, says Christopherson. He says that the sounds created in order to confuse audio recognition software are so distorted that they cannot be recognised by humans either.

Even more patronisingly, when testing Google he saw that it has a third option - contact the site's owners directly for assistance. When Christopherson was eventually contacted two days after applying for this option he was informed that everyone had to register online!

My correspondent also finds the whole accessibility attempt somewhat patronisingly unuseful:
I can't pass the eyetest and I think the wheelchair (what does wheelchair use have to do with poor eyesight anyway?) is meant to link to a hearing test, which is also a problem for me because I damaged my hearing doing factory work when I was young.

Anyway, that's irrelevant because the wheelchair actually links to a page that says "Not Found Error 404" for me. I can't even try a hearing test.

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