Web 2.0 Accessibility
Each of the major categories of disabilities requires certain types of adaptations in the design of the web content. Most of the time, these adaptations benefit nearly everyone, not just people with disabilities. Almost everyone benefits from helpful illustrations, properly-organized content and clear navigation.
external image icon_eye.gifVisualBlindness, low vision, color-blindness
The above information was copied from WebAIM

Facebook Accessibility

Facebook, a popular social network site started in 2004, has connected people all over the world. The Facebook slogan is, “Giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” This slogan did not always hold true. Those with visual impairments ran into a few snags when trying to use the popular site.

People with visual impairments are able to use computers and surf the web with use of a screen magnification program or a screen reading program. These programs are great if websites and computer programs are properly designed. Social networking sites bring unique challenges to using these programs. One of these challenges is the use of images. Images are an important part of a site experience but it is rare that photos get described. Links and comments can change when in the middle of reading a page. Text, images, or links can fall outside the view window of magnification. These are a few of the challenges that those with visual impairment faced when wanting to use Facebook.

A few years ago, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) approached Facebook in an attempt to fix these accessibility problems for blind members having difficulty using the site and its applications. Facebook was responsive and is committed to finding solutions for all its members, including those with disabilities.

Facebook has an accessibility-specific help center page. This page provides feedback from the disability community and tips on using assistive technology with Facebook. The Facebook accessibility page also has a link to connect users with an accessibility team with problems that many not be addressed on the page.

Visually impaired and blind users enjoy Facebook like any other person. These individuals use the sight to connect with people all over the world who have similar likes, dislikes, challenges, and to inform, etc. Visually impaired users are grouped together for these three purposes:
1. To dispel rumors which exist about blind people
2. To provide stories which will further help the sighted understand that yes, that kid with the white stick is just as normal as they are
3. To collaborate as a whole on important topics or issues facing this community.

The web is far from being accessible to all users, but many organizations like Facebook are working towards this goal. In this effort Facebook is truly working to stand true to its slogan by “giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”


An Update on Facebook Accessibility

As mentioned in the above article the goal of www.facebook.com is to give people "the power to share and make the world more open and connected." Facebook has made great strides making this goal a reality for all people regardless of learning challenge barriers. The newest development seeks to make Facebook more accessible for people with blindness, low vision, and color blindness. As of April 2016, they have developed and rolled out an artificial intelligence software that allows the visually impaired to "see" pictures on their newsfeeds. This development has really made Facebook more useable and meaningful for the visually impaired. According to an article by the Facebook newsroom, creating a more accessible Facebook is important because “with more than 39 million people who are blind and over 246 million who have a severe visual impairment, many people feel excluded from the conversation around photos on Facebook.” This new advancement in screen readers allows the visually impaired to join this “conversation.” The new development is called automatic alternative text. With this new technology Facebook will describe what is happening in a photo while you scroll through your newsfeed. Before this the screen reader would only be able to say who posted the photo and would describe it as just a “photo.” This development has an amazing potential for making the web more accessible for all. Check out the videos in the attached article to see this new advancement in action! "Using Artificial Intelligence to Help Blind People ‘See’ Facebook"


link to article: http://newsroom.fb.com/news/2016/04/using-artificial-intelligence-to-help-blind-people-see-facebook/

Color Blindlness

Making the web accessible to persons with disabilities should be of paramount importance to web designers, especially those who design websites for public organizations, such as schools or government agencies. One facet of accessibility that is often overlooked, but is very important, is that of colorblindness. Since web designers make extensive use of color in their pages, both for design and functionality purposes, they need to have some basic knowledge of different types of colorblindness and how these might affect the usability of their site by people with any of these conditions.

People with colorblindness can experience varying degrees of red, green or blue deficiencies, meaning they cannot perceive these colors as they are being reflected back to their eyes. In one extreme form of colorblindness, rod monochromacy or achromacy, there is no perception of color at all.

When designing web pages, it is important to understand what someone who is colorblind sees when they look at your pages. A useful tool for this purpose can be found at http://www.vischeck.com. This website allow the user to check any image, graphic or webpage under conditions perceived by each of the three main types of colorblindness. Another tool available on this website allows the user to correct images for colorblind users. This process is called “daltonizing” and can be found at http://www.vischeck.com/daltonize/

From a design standpoint, it is best to avoid problems of colorblind accessibility from the outset. Try not to make color the only means of emphasizing text or navigation tools. When color is used, offer an alternative way of getting the information from the text or graphic. Incidentally, when web designers take these thing into account for colorblind users, other users with visual impairments will benefit as well.


Screen Readers and the Barriers to their Effectiveness.


A study by Microsoft in 2004 showed that among adult computer users in the United States 17% (21.9 million) of computer users have a mild visual difficulty or impairment, and 9% (11.1 million) of computer users have a severe visual difficulty or impairment.

There are several aspects of the internet which are inaccessible to these users due to their visual difficulties. Several computer manufacturers have incorporated a screen reader into their software in order to assist those with visual impairments to use their Operating Systems. Alternatively, there are third party applications such as JAWS specifically designed to help those with visual impairments access content. Screen reading software, either OS or third party, is limited in its compatibility with a large number of websites. Image rich and embedded video sites provide a significant barrier for screen readers to interpret flow of text.

Screen readers do not have the capability to describe images to their user. Instead, these readers rely on alt text (text assigned to a picture on a website that describes the picture). There are a significant number of websites on the internet whose creators do not make alt texts for images on their site and thus create a barrier for their visually impaired users. Accessibility awareness groups are encouraging site creators to adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 which call for creators to “provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.”

Since 2005, there has been a significant increase of video content on the web. Video content is rich with images and audio alike. Visually impaired users of sites like Youtube rely heavily on the audio content contained within these videos. When a user clicks on a video they would like to watch or listen to, the page loads and the video automatically starts playing. This presents a significant problem to the user with visual difficulties that relies on a screen reader. When the page loads two events happen concurrently: the screen reader starts reading the text on the page and the audio from the video starts to play. These simultaneous events create a “sensory overload” which creates a barrier to using the site. A solution to this problem for Mozilla Firefox users can be to download the free extension Stop Autoplay. By installing this extension, visually impaired users can stop and start videos and its accompanying audio when they choose. This freedom allows users with vision difficulty the ability to enjoy sites like Youtube to gain knowledge, share laughs and enjoy connectedness with the ease sighted people may take for granted.

Sources:
http://soap.stanford.edu/show.php?contentid=64
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Screen_reader
http://webaim.org/articles/visual/blind#limitations
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YouTube
http://www.iheni.com/standardsnext-cognition/