Category Archives: Accessible web sites

I’m ‘Irked’

Actually, I’m a little busy, hence the inactivity on this blog.  Some things take priority over blogging…like REAL writing (a book-like thing in development) and elderobics classes (don’t ask) and baking apple custard tarts. However, some readers obviously continue to cruise through current and past entries. They have differing ideas on what types of blogs they enjoy most. ‘Joefun’is a devoted fan of the rant. He would have me bitchin’ every day of the week. Others? Not so much. One guy who has been attentive recently is the editor of Irked Magazine, an Internet publication that merits a look-see.  He wrote to ask if I would allow Irked to republish a couple of  my past blogs. You’d  think, given the name, ‘Irked’, that it would have been a request for a ‘big blow’, the likes I am occasionally known to produce. Not so. The ones Irked is interested in,  have to do with guide dogs and the handler’s experience. Irked, can be found at http://www.irkedmagazine.com . Check it out if you are interested in the “culture of disability”, as wikipedia puts it.  Link from blogroll (which is getting a bit long, eh?)

Like a ‘Price Is Right’ Cadillac Without an Engine

You know you’re not having a good day when you  go down to the laundry room to retrieve your clothes from the dryer and  you discover that someone (that old gaga fart from the 3rd floor) has opened your dryer at least a  half hour before time was due to elapse, and  she ‘forgets’ to shut it, thereby allowing the drying time to tick down to zip. She does this a lot.  I can never quite pin it on her, but I KNOW it’s her …What are you doing opening my dryer in the first place, you old ditz ?!!  It’s not like you can’t tell it’s in use. Laundry basket on top, warm rumbling coming from the machine… and seven other machines empty and idle. Old age is no excuse for downright rude, insane and disruptive behaviour! Not to mention the health risk you created by forcing me to  wear damp clothing  outside in October… because  gee, I hadn’t anticipated laundry sabotage today!  I want security cameras! And guards…with Tazers!… and some big mean dogs on patrol!  Then, just to add some nuts to my banana spit, I  discovered that the damp pile of clothes that I had just hauled up to my apartment, had an unusual smell coming from them. This continues to baffle me. They smell worse now than they did  before I washed them…much worse. Did the old biddie hurl a stinking potion onto them too?   It gets worse.   I had a few minutes to kill before leaving for the movie (‘Blindness’ day), so I thought I’d try out the HRM voting site on the Net.  Yes, it’s the first day of electronic voting in HRM.  I’ve been feeling all happy and victorious about accessible voting for weeks now,  ever since I heard that HRM was testing electronic voting for  the Halifax Municipal election.  Woa! Not too quick with the democratic process happy dance!  My joy fizzled out when I got onto the HRM voting web site start page and discovered that the security ‘descramble’ of letters and numbers DID NOT HAVE AN AUDIO OPTION!!! Good going guys. What are people with screen reading software supposed to do?  It’s like winning a big honking Cadillac on The Price Is Right and discovering that the car has no engine. Sheesh!  Being ever resourceful, I asked my neighbour to come look at my computer monitor and read the scramble for me.   She was ‘visiting’ anyway, at least, just long enough to complain about the ‘thunking’ noise against our adjoining wall.  “Oh that”, I said. “It’s just Opal getting settled in her recliner.”  I apologized and promised to move my dog’s favourite chair from against the wall,. I  gave my neighbour a cookie as she left, shaking her head and muttering all the way back to her lair.    Sigh. Yes, my dog has her own recliner. But it’s VERY old and I WAS going to toss it out back in July…except Opal wouldn’t let me.

Hey Operator!

That’s right, I mean you, the  Bell Aliant operator on duty yesterday afternoon. Watch out lady, ’cause you’re in store for some deep doo dah. Did ya think I’d just ‘let it go’? Not a chance, babe. Sure, it took 30 minutes to go through the complaint process with the customer service department, but at least I have the reassurance that you will be ‘spoken to’. Maybe you will think twice before you say something stupid when a PAYING ALIANT CUSTOMER dials and asks you how to go about making a conference call. Maybe you won’t say, “the number for the conference operator is in the phone book” in reply to a PAYING ALIANT CUSTOMER who has told you that the Aliant web site is INACCESSIBLE and won’t cough up the information she needs. Maybe when that PAYING ALIANT CUSTOMER says, “I can’t read the phone book” , your smart ass sarcastic reply will not be, “You can’t read?”  Maybe you won’t mutter to the PAYING ALIANT CUSTOMER, who tells you in frustration (even though it is none of your bloody business) that she is blind, “ok, wait a sec”  and follow that up by shouting, “What did you say?” when the PAYING ALIANT CUSTOMER says “thanks for that”.  Maybe you won’t proceed to grumble and send the PAYING ALIANT CUSTOMER into her own voicemail system instead of linking her to the conference call operator.  Yep, maybe you will just do your job in the first place and provide the PAYING ALIANT CUSTOMER with information instead of going down that murky road by asking, “can’t you read?”. Maybe the reprimand will include reading a fact sheet with statistical information about the 6,000,000  or more Canadians who can not read print because of a visual, perceptual or intellectual disability. Maybe your boss will tell you that it doesn’t matter why the PAYING ALIANT CUSTOMER can’t READ a phone book, or why they don’t HAVE a phone book, or why they don’t WANT to use their phone book…you just do what the PAYING ALIANT CUSTOMER requests.

STOP PRESS!!! This just in: Aliant Customer Service Management tippy-toeing very carefully all over an apology to Wise advice. It seems that the Aliant operator in question is going to have that informative talk with her supervisor this afternoon….

More on Web Accessibility

I have not heard back from our city’s web master since I suggested they test the HRM (Halifax) site using a screen-reading software download. I suggested last week to our web master that he/she download a free version of Jaws and attempt to use the speech output program (with the computer monitor turned OFF). I have an image in my mind of this person sitting at their desk, with hands covering their ears, and shouting… “Shut up you stupid Jaws voice!!!! I can’t find anything on this site!!!!”

If only it were true. Did our web master extraordinaire actually have the hutzpah to follow through with my wise advice? I doubt it…. But hey! if you did, ‘K’, how about trying out the audio ‘captcha’ options for security letter de-scrambles?  You know what I’m talking about…. often you are asked to enter the swirly letters, words or numbers on the screen in order to move on to your next step. These are used on many web sites as a security measure before you can access the  ‘contact’,  ‘access our site’, ‘ make payment’,  ‘apply for ‘  or ‘order’ applications. The audio option  often turns out to be a total mess of garbled nonsense which no one can understand, no matter how many times they try to listen to it. How’s that working for ya, eh?

Wise Advice For Web Masters….on ACCESSIBILITY

Call me wishful. I had an inspired moment yesterday. The web master for our city’s web site contacted me after I had sent in a complaint about not being able to ‘read’ a lot of stuff on the HRM site with my screen reading software. Screen reading software (like Jaws or Guide) enables someone who cannot see their monitor (like blind folk), to listen to a mechanical or synthesized  voice reading whatever is on the screen;  e-mail, web page etc.  At least, that’s what is suppose to happen in  theory. In practice, many web sites are ridiculously difficult or impossible to navigate with Jaws. There is a movement afoot towards web accessibility standards. Retail giant, Target in the USA is in a legal battle with the NFB (National Federation of the Blind) over their inaccessible web site. Hmm.  Here’s my wise advice today for web masters (so that they can  ‘test’ their own sites for accessibility): go to the Freedom scientific site…

http://freedomscientific.com/fs_downloads/jaws.asp

 and download a FREE trial version of Jaws software. Learn to use it. Then turn your computer monitors OFF and navigate your own site using Jaws. Try the links, the documents, opening pages etc.  Have fun!

ACB Radio For the Blind

I discovered ACB radio yesterday. Where have I been?!  ACB radio provides 5 channels of internet radio, streamed live through free players (You can download Winamp or others). This is radio by the blind, for the blind and for anyone interested in blindness issues. ‘Cafe’ channel provides music by blind musicians. On ‘Classic’, you can listen to classic comedy and drama programs. ‘On Demand’ will allow you to listen to programs such as: ‘Cooking in the Dark’, ‘Disability Nation’, ‘The Sound of Sight’, ‘Blind Handyman’, ‘Eye on Employment’ and more. You can also download a ‘tuner’ so that you have quick access to ACB from your computer desktop. You must check this out. I will link it to my blogroll.  It should be the first on the alphabetical list….The web site is: http://www.acbradio.org

I Love…Like…Tolerate a Parade

Actually, traditional parades do not appeal to me. They are loud and crowded and frighten Opal. (We accidentally wandered into the Pride parade last year and she was blasted with silly string and streamers. The whistles and loud music didn’t help either.)  A parade we do enjoy, or at least tolerate, is the monthly shopping expedition at our local grocery store. Shopping for groceries when you unable to read labels or locate items, can be hard. It is even more complicated, when you have a guide dog.  I like to rest Opal after 40 minutes in harness. It’s only fair.  Here’s how food shopping works for us. I call ahead and ask the manager if someone will be available to help us shop. I always chose a quiet weekday morning. We arrive on time and present ourselves to customer service. The manager normally has booked Dewayne, the produce manager to help us through the bulk of the shopping. Dewayne pulls the shopping cart from the front. I hold the cart handle and follow. Opal is in harness, and I have only her leash in hand, with the handle down. She is on my left side as we meander around, looking very much like a little parade.  Opal obediently keeps up, and I am cognizant of any attempts to dive for food items on the floor. Dewayne tries to use the wider spaces in the Quinpool Road Superstore and tells me if we are going left or right. We wait in place in quiet spots while he goes off to collect a few items. I thwart off the customers who want to impede the flow of the parade (looking to pat Opal or run over her).  Fortunately, most of my shopping is done within the perimeter of the store. That’s where the produce, bakery, and dairy are located in all grocery stores. (We bypass the meat department aka. ‘dead animals’ also located in the perimeter.) In the interior aisles, we avoid the crap over- packaged and processed food, and find our tea, and the odd package of pasta or rice. When efficient Dewayne is unavailable to lead the parade,  grocery shopping can become a long and arduous ordeal.  If the clerk does not know where items are located, we are in for a rough ride. I have been known to abandon a clerk and cart, when I feel that the Odyssey has been too much for Opal. “Sorry, but we’re not wandering around like Bedouins anymore. It’s not fair to my dog…we’ll be back when she’s rested, and you find someone who can get us out of here in a timely manner”. Here’s the way to re-enforce good service for customers who are blind or have similar shopping needs: If the clerk does a good job, make a point of speaking to the manager of the store, preferably at the cash, in front of him or her and praise them up. I point out, that if I am dropping $150.00 in their store, I enjoy and appreciate doing it quickly. I also point out shortcomings; poor choice of produce, too much time spent wandering around, etc.  I make use of the customer service 1-800 number that most food chains have and report good and bad service. I make suggestions about accessible on line flyers, and anything else I think they should be aware of.  I  do my bit, by being prepared when I go to shop, knowing what I want to buy, and the sequence it will be picked up…natural food sections, produce, bread, sundries, groceries, dairy, frozen food. Get familiar with a store and the manager and staff. It is the only way you can hope to have consistent and reasonably acceptable service when shopping if you are blind.  If you are fortunate enough to have a friend or family member help you shop instead of requiring assistance by store employees, be sure to respect their time and effort by being prepared.