I approached this task with a certain degree of confidence. A blog is about writing – right? I can do that. I soon learned that my confidence was a little misplaced. I wanted to have a blog which was, as far as possible, “universally accessible,” that is, accessible to people with disabilities who have visual impairments and/or learning disabilities and use screen readers. I posted inquiries on a list that addresses access issues for people with disabilities, and received the recommendation that among Google, WordPress, and Typepad, WordPress was one of the most accessible blog hosting services.
One respondent noted that difficulties with accessibility could occur in a couple of ways: difficulty with logging on to the service because of “Captcha” – the oddly arranged letters that have to be read and re-entered, and/or difficulty with reading the interface itself with ascreen reader.
I decided to try WordPress, and encountered my first difficulty – there is WordPress.com (the site for developing a free blog) and WordPress.org (requires a fee and offers more features). I wandered around the WordPress.org site for a while before realizing my mistake and eventually started the log in process for WordPress.com. I had several points of difficulty but found the help features to be excellent. I got back quick replies and in some cases the tasks where I had difficulty were completed for me. However, I think an individual with a visual impairment might have a great deal of difficulty logging on to this site.
I was introduced to Web2Access (http://www.web2access.org.uk/) after this was originally posted. After looking at the site, I realized that most of my difficulty in setting up the blog had to do with item 11 on the Web2Access page for WordPress – Appropriate Feedback with Forms, which should tell the user what to do next (http://www.web2access.org.uk/product/4/). Oviously, poor web design can impact anyone, not only those with disabilities.
After creating my first post on my theme, Spring Loaded, I felt like I had achieved quite an accomplishment!
I had received several comments from my question about accessible blogs, and some included link references for further information. Mrs. E.A. Draffan of the Learning Societies Lab, University of Southampton, England commented that two rich text editors could accessible blogs. TinyMCE (http://wiki.moxiecode.com/index.php/TinyMCE%3AAccessibility) is the rich text editor used by WordPress.com. The editor can be reached using a keyboard and the menu buttons are accessible. The designer can change color contrast levels and text sizes.
Later, in my post on Thing 8 on July 26, 2009, I mentioned that Mrs. Draffan had told me about this site – Web2Access (http://www.web2access.org.uk/). It documents tests for accessibility run on numerous social media web sites, and the results are given in detail for particular types of disability. Since those with visual impairments and other issues related to the visual sense often experience one of the highest levels of difficulty with poorly designed websites, I will comment especially on those results; however, I am well aware that people with many kinds of disabilities experience difficulties, and Web2Access provides abundant information on these issues.
A number of different tests for accessibility were performed on each website for each kind of disability. The specific disabilities and the applicable tests are at http://www.web2access.org.uk/disability/#disability3. Results are expressed in percentages. The site notes that “Percentages do not indicate how much of a site is accessible. They indicate the average figure of test results relevant to each disability. Select a disability to see which tests are relevant to it.”
Google’s Blogger received scores of 82% for those with blindness/severe visual impairments, 78% for those with partial visual acuity, and 78% for those with issues about visual stress (http://www.web2access.org.uk/product/150/). WordPress received scores of 83% for those with blindness/severe visual impairments, 78% for those with partial visual acuity, and 78% for those with issues about visual stress (http://www.web2access.org.uk/product/4/). Typepad was not evaluated on Web2Access.
CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology), an organization well-known for advocacy for people with disabilities, chose WordPress for its blog (http://udlguidelines.edublogs.org/). Another respondent noted that WordPress.org had a forum for accessibility issues (http://wordpress.org/tags/accessibility), but WordPress.com required that I post questions through Help and Support. I got quick, friendly answers, including – in response to my question – a suggestion that K-2 Lite, rather than Spring Loaded might be an easier theme for screen readers to handle. However, my respondent from WordPress.com indicated that the site had room for improvement in its understanding of accessibility issues and even asked that I forward helpful links!
FCKeditor is another accessible rich text editor (http://docs.fckeditor.net/FCKeditor_3.x/Design_and_Architecture/Accessibility).
I received links to several sites that offer critiques of the accessibility of blogging sites for visually impaired users: The American Foundation for the Blind evaluated several blogging services (http://www.afb.org/Section.asp?SectionID=57&DocumentID=2753); How to Make Your Blog Accessible to Blind Readers (http://www.afb.org/Section.asp?SectionID=57&TopicID=167&DocumentID=2757) is also on this site. Another respondent suggested All Access Blogging (http://www.allaccessblogging.com/), a blog about accessible blogs!
After reading through several of these, I noted that tips for accessible blogs were derivative of the accessible web design practices promoted by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/). They include: pay attention to page organization, use alt tags for images, be aware of color contrast issues etc.
For now, with my current level of knowledge about these issues, I am satisfied that WordPress.com is a good choice for this project and K-2 Lite is an acceptable, accessible theme.