When Kyann Flint was eight years old, she had the opportunity to begin learning Braille. However, both Kyann and her instructor quickly realized that even though Kyann could memorize the structure of Braille, typing on a Braille typewriter was difficult for her and reading Braille was impossible. Typing on a Braille typewriter requires strength and coordination of one’s fingers and reading Braille requires sensation in one’s fingertips. Due to Kyann’s neuromuscular disorders, she lacked all of these.
Braille was not an option for Kyann. So, with her remaining vision, large print and magnification became her means of accessing information. Through the years, technology such as books on tape, and then CDs, and then online, gave Kyann access to the world of books.
Many textbooks throughout Kyann’s secondary education did not have fonts large enough for her to read. The screen reader JAWS was around, but most textbooks were not available in a digital format for the majority of Kyann’s schooling career. In high school, Kyann’s dad and the principal’s secretary would make large-print photocopies of her needed textbook pages. This was a benefit to Kyann as she has limited hand function which made holding the large print textbooks (that did exist) close to her face awkward and tiring. So the individual loose pages from the copy machine were actually the best accommodation for her at the time.
In college, many reading assignments came in PDF format, which is not automatically screen reader compatible. Kyann learned how to convert PDFs in Adobe so that VoiceOver, the screen reader on her Mac, could read assignments to her.
Magnification and screen reader compatibility is extremely important for the disability community to gain the same access to information and services as anyone else. In an ever growing digital world, many blind and low-vision people prefer the use of technology. Many may neither have access to learning Braille or, like Kyann, cannot read Braille. But, even if an individual is fluent in Braille, they too should have equal access to information online; some blind individuals use screen readers in combination with Braille display rather than audio output. Just as a sighted person has access to both hard copy text and their favorite web pages, blind individuals should have access to both as well.
Please ensure that your books and websites are accessible to the disability community. We at Wandke Consulting can assist you in ensuring that your content meets Section 508 and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1 AA) standards.