Is accessibility in your sight?

World Sight Day is a good time to audit your online documents for accessibility

October 12, 2017, was World Sight Day. Developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2000, World Sight Day aims to raise awareness about blindness and vision impairment for VISION 2020: The Right to Sight, a global initiative.

According to the research described by Dr Norman Doidge in his book, The Brain that Changes Itself, those without sight can use hearing and touch to activate the visual part of the brain. Remarkably, the study also found that by the visual cortex was much more strongly activated for the blind subjects as for those who could see.

Internationally-recognised disability services expert, Trevor Allan, says that adapting services for unsighted people is becoming more and more important around the world.

“Accessibility is a human rights issue,” said Mr Allan. “Why shouldn’t an unsighted person be able to access the same financial, technology and information services that others take for granted.”

All Australian Government agencies are now required to ensure information and services are provided in a non-discriminatory accessible manner, under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

“When it comes to electronic material, an unsighted person can access information by using what is known as assistive technology such as a screen reader, text-to-voice technology, and braille devices,” said Mr Allan.

“Best practice is to ensure that information and communication services are set up for that technology.”

Highlands resident, Danielle Spinks-Earl, is a communications and marketing consultant who believes many organisations don’t understand how important accessibility is or how to achieve it.

“There is a large amount of information in the public domain that is not set up to be accessible for those who are using assistive technology,” said Ms Spinks-Earl.

“For example, many people know that an alternative text field is for adding a description of an image, but often it is left blank in a website or document, or it says ‘image’. For an unsighted person, this is like opening a family photo album and seeing page after page of blank squares and the word ‘image’.

Danielle Spinks-Earl has sought the advice of Trevor Allan, who is based in Wollongong, in developing interactive PDFs for government and international clients.

“Good design is inclusive. Every organisation—large and small—can do this,” said Ms Spinks-Earl. “If it’s going to be publicly available, make sure it’s accessible.”

More information about World Sight Day 17 is available here: http://worldsightday.org.au/