Photo of an electronic braille reader When we start blogging, it’s easy to assume other bloggers are just like us.

You know, they write, they visit blogs, read the works of others, watch the videos, listen to the audio, and when life calls, jump up from their desk.

But that’s not the case.

Many people who blog and who read blogs are living with disabilities.

Today’s Lesson

Although the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require personal and commercial websites to be compliant (yet), by not considering those who have disabilities, we may be leaving a large sector of the population untapped.

The deaf depend on their eyesight, but may not be able to hear the audio portion of embedded videos or audio. By providing a written transcript (or a link to it), the deaf will gain insight into what’s being said.

To read websites, the blind may use a screen reader or a refreshable Braille display which translates standard text into Braille. Those who are visually impaired may also use their browser to increase the size of the type on web pages.

Contrast between the background and the lettering is an issue for some, and those who are colorblind, will see things much differently than someone with normal eye sight.

For those who prefer to hear what’s written, the use of software that converts text to speech (TTS) may be used. Some of the free options include:

  1. Click Speak – an addon by Firefox
  2. sds Talkr
  3. NVoice
  4. Voz Me
  5. Odiogo

In the ADA Tool Kit – Website Accessibility article, they spot several situations which could be easily corrected to make our sites more accessible by the disabled. One example is:

Problem: Documents Are Not Posted In an Accessible Format

State and local governments will often post documents on their websites using Portable Document Format (PDF). But PDF documents, or those in other image based formats, are often not accessible to blind people who use screen readers and people with low vision who use text enlargement programs or different color and font settings to read computer displays.

Solution: Post Documents in a Text-Based Format

Always provide documents in an alternative text-based format, such as HTML or RTF (Rich Text Format), in addition to PDF. Text-based formats are the most compatible with assistive technologies.

They also suggest adding an “alt” tag to images. For those who use text converting software, images cannot be seen, therefore by adding text we can describe what is included in the image. Note: Search engines cannot “read” images, either.

To give users of our blogs the option to change the font size, the wpchangefontsize plugin can be utilized. Although it is not compatible with all themes, it’s a great start to provide our readers with another option.

For those of you who want to test your site and see how those who are color blind will see it, check out the Colorblind Web Page Filter

Want to know if the colors you’ve chosen for your site are “compliant”? Have a look at the Colour Contrast generator

When I started blogging I was so wrapped up in all there was to learn, I didn’t consider if those who live with disabilities could easily read my blog posts, but the more I blog, the more I realize I need to remember anyone who has access to a computer is a potential visitor.

How about you?

Today’s Assignment

Are you tapping into this sector of the population?

If so, how?

signature for blog post.

Other great sites worth checking out:

  1. Enlightened Webmastery offers a tutorial on Odiogo (text to speech software), or try it for yourself on George’s blog, Tumblemoose Writing Services.
  2. Big Fork Web Development’s Is Your Website Color Conscious?
  3. Another color analyzer is provided by, Vision Australia
  4. And for a blogger who lives with disabilities, Paul Maurice Martin has a wonderful blog and book both named Original Faith

Photo Credit: jyyne_2000

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Look Who's Talking
  1. Wilma HamNo Gravatar says:

    I never ever considered this, not for one moment. How interesting and that while we have a blind friend who uses computers.
    Well your post has a lot of information that I have to come back to.
    You must have done a lot of research for this one and I do appreciate that.
    Thanks Barbara, this has been an eye opener.
    .-= Check out Wilma Ham´s awesome post: My daughter and I on ‘why should you?’. =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Wilma,

      Although this post took more research, I felt it was something we should all be aware of. I’m happy to hear it’s useful.

  2. Kelvin KaoNo Gravatar says:

    I haven’t specifically thought about these things, but I’ve seen them come up in articles about SEO. They talk about using text and alt attributes to make it easier for search engines, and they will mention people with disabilities in a “by the way” manner. I might look into it one day when I give my site an overhaul.

    As for colorblindness… I am not sure that I would do anything about it. After all, there are many kinds of colorblindness, and I don’t think it’s practical to try to cover them all. And I think it probably only affects aesthetics, but not so much of the functionality. If functionality is an issue, special browsers (or plug-ins) should be made to scan the pixels on the screen and replace the parts that lack enough contrast.
    .-= Check out Kelvin Kao´s awesome post: TV Puppetry Workshop: Week 2 =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Kelvin,

      Yes, there are many types of colorblindness, and you’re right, it would be difficult to accommodate for each one. I’m guessing what would be the most beneficial is to use good contrast.

  3. I’ve never considered this but given I don’t do audio or video posts the big thing for me to worry about is screenreaders and other visual impairments. I’ll have to look at my blog more carefully to figure out if I’m excluding anyone.

    Thanks for bringing up this important topic!
    .-= Check out Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome´s awesome post: No, I Won’t Talk to You: Why Someday Syndrome Offers Email-Based Coaching =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Alex,

      When you do have the chance to look over your blog, I hope some of the links I’ve provided will be of help.

  4. J.D. MeierNo Gravatar says:

    Good stuff. I like your title and how you connected the dots to practical scenarios.

    I especially like that you pulled out the PDF + HTML scenario. I think it’s a good example how having both available pays off in the end.
    .-= Check out J.D. Meier´s awesome post: My Top 10 Lessons in Life =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you J.D.

      I thought that was important – the PDF/html. Oddly enough, when I’ve been surfing I’ve seen the two options and often wondered why they were both offered. Now I know. 🙂

  5. janiceNo Gravatar says:

    This was humbling for me, Barbara. A real eye-opener. While I knew that there are paralysed colleagues who’ve done entire coaching courses using mouth operated computers and a phone, I never considered for one moment that a blind person might ever find or want to hear my posts. I’ve always tried to keep my fonts and page ‘clean’, but that’s all I’ve done. This is yet one more of your posts that deserve to be kept, studied and acted upon. Thank you.
    .-= Check out janice´s awesome post: The House of the Thousand Horrormoans =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Janice,

      I think we need to remember just because someone has disabilities, they’re just like us, same feelings, same emotions, and have likes and dislikes just as we do. So yes, I’m sure they would also love to read your work.

      Keeping our blogs “clean” is a good step in the right direction.

  6. Cath LawsonNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara – This is something I hadn’t really thought about but it seems like I need to. I will check out the resources and plugin you mentioned.

    It’s great that someone is going to be doing NBOTW. Is that the same Tumblemoose who writes for Monika at Writer’s Manifesto?

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Catherine,

      Have fun checking out the resources.

      Re: Tumblemoose. I don’t know if he’s the same one who writes for Monika or not. Hopefully he’ll come by, see your question and let us know.

  7. Jay SchryerNo Gravatar says:

    Once upon a time, making sure that websites and other materials were ADA compliant was a part of my job; I did it for a living. I worked with government agencies and corporations to ensure compatibility, and to help them bring materials into compliance when needed. So, from that perspective, thank you for bringing this subject up. I think a lot of bloggers never even think about this, and so I’m glad you’re pointing it out to them.

    Even with my background, I don’t do as good a job of this as I should. Image descriptions should be, well, descriptive. They should tell what the picture actually is. If it’s a photo of a campfire, then the description should say “campfire, photo courtesy of blah”. In WordPress, the “caption” field also serves as the alt. tag, so use it to help out the blind. I don’t always do this, but I should.

    Thank you Barbara, for reminding us about this important issue.
    .-= Check out Jay Schryer´s awesome post: The Power of A Smile =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Jay,

      Thank you for sharing your story and for explaining alt tags for photos.

      I know you’re in a wheelchair, and although you can get around the internet without any problems, I’m guessing you encounter many situations where you’re limited as to where you can go physically.

  8. DotNo Gravatar says:

    I’m really glad to see this, Barbara. I’ve been planning to write about this subject myself, since this issue impacts me a little bit now with my vision loss. The figures I’ve seen are 48 million Americans have some form of disablity, and this is expected to rise with the aging of the baby boomer generation. That’s about 1 out of every 7 people — a lot of readers to overlook, though of course not all of them have visual or auditory issues.

    One of the most-requested changes, after contrast, on a disability site I’ve been reading, has been this: a button or link that allows the user to “skip navigation” (for instance, if there are buttons or tabs across the top) and to “skip to navigation” if one wants to get past the text to the links. Imagine having to listen to “Home, About, Contact, …” etc. every morning before you could get to the post.
    .-= Check out Dot´s awesome post: Comment on Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes by Walter =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Dot,

      That’s very true. With baby boomers (which I am) aging, we will see more situations where individuals will require better navigation of blogs and websites.

      After I read your comment, I searched for a “skip navigation” plugin or easy coding to add it, but haven’t found anything yet. Thank you for bringing it up.

  9. PeggyNo Gravatar says:

    This is awesome food for thought! I definitely need to read up on your suggestions and add plugins as necessary.

    I write to a visual and audio audience. I write words and often post images and video.

    Thank you for this. I will have to think about what I can do to make both my blogs more accessible!

    Peggy
    .-= Check out Peggy´s awesome post: Fall In New Hampshire =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Peggy,

      Since I’ve written this post, I’ve read several more articles on the subject of increasing text size plugins (the one I listed doesn’t work on this theme). There are mixed reviews on that subject. Some say if someone is using the internet and needs the text larger, they already know how to do that (since they do it all the time via their browser), whereas others feel we should give our readers an option. I did install the plugin on my other blog Observation Mountain if you want to see it in action (see sidebar).

  10. The funny thing is even though years ago I helped business owners structure their businesses for better tax relief (corporations, llc, etc.), I also showed them how by helping the disabled read their websites the government would provide them with certain tax benefits.

    Back then (around 2003), by making your website compliant with the ADA, the government was providing business website owners with a $5000 tax credit and a $5000 tax deduction.

    Not sure how it works these days, but I’m sure there’s something similar. In essence, you’re building a “ramp” for your website while others are able to use the stairs.

    Good post Barbara. I don’t use any of these but maybe I should start thinking in terms of my own websites.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you John,

      I like your story John. You and Jay (see comment above) did similar work.

      Do you think the government will give us bloggers a tax credit or deduction if we make our blogs “compliant”? 🙂

  11. Hi Barbara – Something I’d never considered until this post. I’ve been working with a friend’s speech recognition software to dictate portions of the large project I’m working on, and have thought of many ways people with disabilities would benefit from using it. I’m interested to know more about the methods you’ve mentioned to make our sites more accessible, so will be having a closer look. Thanks.
    .-= Check out Betsy Wuebker´s awesome post: SURRENDER, CONSECRATION AND FREEDOM =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Betsy,

      How fascinating that you’re working with speech recognition dictation software. I read about that too, bud decided not to include it in this post as it was about how others “see” what we write. That’s got to be a fun project. I’ll be looking for the unveiling.

  12. DaphneNo Gravatar says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this with your readers! I work with assistive technology professionals and I have been learning about all of the ways that the world is not accessible. Your post made the fixes very do-able. Kudos for raising awareness!
    .-= Check out Daphne´s awesome post: Inspiring Blogs =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Daphne,

      Your job sounds very exciting. I’m guessing you could share a lot with us on how the “world” is not accessible to all.

      Yes, some of the fixes are easy for us to incorporate into our blogs.

  13. I have thought about how the Web can be great for deaf people, but as Wilma and a few other commenters, I have never until this post given any consideration to the blind or color blind. At all.

    I clicked onto the color-filter link and got a couple results for various missing or damaged cones. A real eye opener.

    I am curious to know what prompted you to learn about and research into this? Has it been something you’ve been taking into consideration for a while?
    .-= Check out Jannie Funster´s awesome post: It’s All Picnics And Cartwheels Until The Fire Ants Bite =-.

  14. Just realized my very non intentional pun with “eye opener” above.

    We take so much for granted. At least I do.
    .-= Check out Jannie Funster´s awesome post: It’s All Picnics And Cartwheels Until The Fire Ants Bite =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Jannie,

      You’re right, we do take a lot for granted.

      Like you, I also used the color filter link and found missing cones. In fact, because of that, I’m changing the colors on my new project so I’m more in “compliance”. It’s one thing to have a blog look good to some, but if others can’t see the writing, we could be losing a lot of readers.

      Re: This post. When I first started blogging I ran into the problem of eye strain when I landed on some sites – mainly ones with a black background and light colored or neon lettering. Recently on my travels through blogosphere I’ve been seeing more sites which offer the ability to change the size of the font and stating “ADA” . Putting two and two together, I came up with this topic and decided it was something we all should consider.

  15. PatriciaNo Gravatar says:

    My IT person’s work requires her to be responsible to the disabled on her campus and within the State. I think my blog has benefited already from her growing expertise in this area.

    My Father was Special Education Director for Washington State for 16 years and really made us aware before all the disability laws were set in place…

    My Partner used to have, until the recession, a staff position in his architecture firm just to address disability issues.

    Very important topic – Thank you for helping others be aware.
    .-= Check out Patricia´s awesome post: My Health Care Plan and Action =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Patricia,

      You’re very fortunate to have others around you who are abreast of all of these “requirements”. Too often the disabled are overlooked (in all aspects of society). Together we can insure they’re treated fairly and have access to all we have access to, as well.

  16. RibbonNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara…

    thank you for this thought provoking post.

    best wishes
    Ribbon

  17. Barbara,
    Your research and care on this topic is just another example of why you are well loved and respected blogger. I agree with J.D. and offering PDF and HTML is a good place for me to begin. Thanks and have a nice weekend.
    .-= Check out Tess The Bold Life´s awesome post: A Bold Diet for Bold Times: The Cheerio Diet =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Tess, and thank you for your kind words.

      Yes, adding both PDF and HTML will be a great start. As time permits, we can all add more.

      I’m wishing you a great weekend too, Tess.

  18. I have to admit I never thought about it. Thank you for bringing it to my (our) attention.
    .-= Check out vered – blogger for hire´s awesome post: Patrick Swayze Can Finally Rest in Peace =-.

  19. DavinaNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara. I too had not previously considered this. Though, after a recent eye examination I started to wonder how I would deal with vision loss. Hopefully that won’t be an issue, but this is worthwhile for those who are already in that situation and it’s good of you to bring it to our attention on their behalf.
    .-= Check out Davina´s awesome post: The Thyme of My Life =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Davina,

      Those eye exams can get us thinking, especially if we’re told our eyesight is getting worse, hey?

  20. I honestly haven’t given this a thought until now. Thank you for bring it to my attention.
    .-= Check out Bunnygot blog´s awesome post: Coco Chanel: Entrepreneur & Woman Before Her Time =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Bunny,

      I hope the post and the links I’ve provided will help if you decide to incorporate accessibility into your blog.

  21. Hi Barbara,

    Thank you so much for providing us with this information. This is an area that is so overlooked.
    .-= Check out Nadia – Happy Lotus´s awesome post: “Working for Good” – an Antidote for Violence – My Interview with Jeff Klein =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Nadia,

      Yes. This is an area that gets overlooked. Hopefully by discussing it we’ll all learn to consider those with disabilities when we blog.

  22. Whoa… I really needed to read this, and man I wish I knew how to manipulate my blog on Typepad better. I do not find Typepad to be very intuitive or user friendly. Bah! Thanks for this article, Barbara. I’m going to make a note to try and update things as I figure out how!
    .-= Check out Megan “JoyGirl!” Bord´s awesome post: Giving Our All =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Megan,

      Unfortunately I don’t know how Typepad blogs are designed, so I can’t be of any help there, but maybe someone who is reading this could offer some ideas.

  23. NicolasNo Gravatar says:

    Nice stuffs! I already downloaded the Click Speak FF addon. Actually, I find it very useful for me cause, I do hate reading long posts. Just curious, is there any a way to change the voice? I can’t understand some of his words.
    .-= Check out Nicolas´s awesome post: Cheyletiella Mange =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Nicolas,

      Because I don’t use Click Speak (the Firefox addon) I’m not familiar with it’s options, however, if that doesn’t work to your linking, maybe one of the other TTS (test to speech) programs would work better. (Seems like I read how some offer either a female or male voice).

  24. NaturalNo Gravatar says:

    hmmm, good points and info. never really thought about it actually. i have a podcast link on my blog that blind people …well they can’t find it, but my blog is accessible via audio. for deaf people, well they have the written word they can read…but even for some deaf people, reading english is not the same as it is for us. ASL is a different language all together when we type things in english, especially cliches or we say we have a runny nose, even they don’t understand what a runny nose is. is it a nose that is running away. so the written word can be challenging for them as well.
    .-= Check out Natural´s awesome post: When Is It (or is it ever) Okay To Lie? =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Natural,

      You’ve raised excellent points. It’s not only how to make our blogs more accessible we need to think about, but how the words we use may confuse our readers.

      Thank you for the eye-opening comment.

  25. LindaNo Gravatar says:

    This is absolutely wonderful information! I am going to try it on my blog. I am embarrassed to say that I did not think of this either. Thank you for bringing it forward to the light for us. 🙂

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Linda,

      Let me know if adding some of these features increases your readership. I know I’m being more aware when I post an image to include a better description in the alt tag.

  26. CarlaNo Gravatar says:

    Since I was diagnosed with MS, I have become more aware of people with disabilities who have a much, much more difficult time than I do. When it comes to public building access, getting around in general, public restrooms, etc, I am becoming more and more aware, BUT when it comes to blogging, I rarely think about it. I have thought about it in terms of fellow suffers of optic neuritis (a complication of MS that causes vision loss) and how I should improve the font on my personal blog, but that’s the extent of it. Thank you for brining this to our attention.
    .-= Check out Carla´s awesome post: A Small Vent about SIGG =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Carla,

      I’m sorry to hear you’ve been diagnosed with MS.

      What you said is true. The issues for accessing public places is often in the spotlight, but we don’t think how those with disabilities access sites online. It pleases me to know this post has not only taught me something, but has taught my readers, as well.

  27. HilaryNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara .. thanks that was a really interesting article – and it’s good to know the add ons available (those that you’ve found for us).

    I was wondering re the speech thing .. I listened to one blog on Odiogo .. and it was terrible – gobbledegook, as Odiogo completely misrepresented what was said in its representation.

    Is there a way we can read our own blog post and have a button to broadcast that on our site?

    Sorry .. I’d look myself .. but just so tied up with all things at the moment, hospite, nursing homes, etc etc – but it’s a question that’s relevant to this subject.

    Thanks Barbara .. really interesting and very interesting hearing others’ ideas and thoughts –
    have a good week – Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories
    .-= Check out Hilary´s awesome post: What did the charcoal hawker start …? =-.

  28. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Hilary,

    I know what you mean about some of the posts that are recorded via Odiogo being a little garbled.

    As for if we could use our own voice, that could be done via a podcast. I’ve never done one, but I’m guessing a “how to podcast” search would result in some great tutorials.

    Keep in mind, you could also video tape yourself, and then just provide a link (or post) the transcript for those who can’t hear.

  29. HilaryNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara .. thanks for replying so quickly.

    I was thinking along the lines of blogtalk radio .. or similar – when I’m free – sounds like a song .. or long plaintiff cry .. it’s something I want to look into ..

    or for that matter youtube .. must be able to put my pictures up – as I read my blog?

    Food for thought ..

    your blog went in a completely different way to the way I’d been thinking .. my approach to other markets was as a way of resource tools .. another source of income – newsletters for the deaf, blind etc .. or for organisations with volunteers who can access different ideas ..

    the Hospice lady said she thought my posts were “brilliant” – from a therapy point of view – points to discuss, bring up etc etc .. that’s the way I’ve looked at them – as I know what my mother can take in, equally my uncle has been totally bowled over at the cross links in life I use ..

    Don’t know – just know I’m doing what I’m doing .. and in due course will expand it ..

    All the best .. Hilary
    .-= Check out Hilary´s awesome post: What did the charcoal hawker start …? =-.

  30. George AngusNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,

    I’ve been using Odiogo for nearly a year. I also added the translation WP plug in and I’ve podcast some of my posts.

    This is a really important post. We tend to forget that the world is a much bigger place than our widescreen laptop. Lots of folks out there with varying abilities.

    George
    .-= Check out George Angus´s awesome post: Buzzing Around the New Blog of the Week =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi George,

      I don’t know how your comment got missed, but I feel like I’m late for my own party. 😆

      That is true. It’s easy to forget others who may have disabilities. Every little bit we do can help.

  31. […] reading Barbara Swafford of Blogging Without a Blog’s post on making your blog more accessible to those with disabilities, I decided to complete work on this post, which I began a few weeks ago […]

  32. ChrisNo Gravatar says:

    Great article. It is clearly stated above and has a good informative details. Thanks for the post. I have now my advantage to create my blog soon.
    .-= Check out Chris´s awesome post: Spacesaving Mini Sewing Machines =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Chris,

      When you get your blog up, please come back by and share the link.

  33. Yeah, you are right , It’s easy to forget others who may have disabilities. Every little bit we do can help.
    .-= Check out portable grill ´s awesome post: How to choose a god portable propane grill =-.