Merry Christmas! 🎄🎅 It’s a strange one for us all this year, and will be very difficult for many, but I hope you’re able to find some happiness, comfort and support, and can immerse yourself in things that you enjoy.
Throughout this month I took part in Accessible Advent on social media, created by Ginny Butcher, where each day I highlighted something that would make life more accessible for me and other visually impaired people. So I thought I’d share the full list here as well. I hope you find it interesting and useful!
1. Audio Description – Theatre
Audio description has really helped me to understand & enjoy theatre in recent years, enabling me to attend shows and try genres I couldn’t otherwise, thanks to VocalEyes and venues like The Old Vic Theatre and National Theatre. I wish more shows & venues had it.
2. Touch Tours
Following on from yesterday, I wish more theatres would do touch tours. Getting close to the sets, costumes, props, etc, greatly aids my appreciation & understanding of their design & use, which combines with the audio description for a full experience.
3. Image Descriptions
Please add descriptions (aka Alt Text) when posting images on websites and social media. If you describe your pictures, blind people with screen readers can understand and interact with your information, products, services, photos, art, jokes, etc. Don’t exclude us!
You can find instructions for adding alt text on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WordPress and Tumblr, as some common examples. If you can’t find the option on the site you’re using, you can add the description to the text of your post. Or you can use the “alt” attribute when adding images using HTML. Keep your descriptions concise and relevant too.
4. Colour Contrast
Poorly contrasted text is nigh on impossible for me to read e.g. red on black, grey on white, etc, preventing my use of websites, printed material, signs, etc. Even normal sighted people will find it hard. Please bear that in mind when designing content.
5. Large Print
Having things in large print enables me to read them much more comfortably, but it’s often not available. It’s important & very useful for bills, letters, leaflets, manuals, signage, menus, theatre programmes, museum labels, etc, to name just a few.
6. Website Navigation
If websites & apps aren’t clear & easy to navigate, I can’t find the information, products, services, etc I need. And the owners often don’t fix issues when alerted to them. So I end up taking my custom & money elsewhere, or I don’t buy anything at all.
Captchas on websites are often difficult & frustrating for me to solve e.g. reading messy text or trying to find items in a grid, and the audio alternatives often aren’t any better. I’ve had to surf away from sites where I couldn’t bypass these before.
8. Online Bookings
Booking accessible tickets for plays, concerts, events, etc, is made less accessible if you’re unable do it quickly & conveniently online like other customers, and have to ring a busy phoneline instead. When I can’t easily get through, I miss out.
I find self-service checkouts & ticket machines slow, frustrating & sometimes unusable, because the interfaces are unfamiliar, confusing & difficult to see. Please ensure there’s also a manned checkout or desk, or staff are available to help use the machines.
If I ask where something is (e.g. a building, a room, a product in a shop, an item in a room, etc), don’t just point and say “It’s over there”. I could spend ages hunting in that area, even if the item’s right under my nose. Please be more specific!
11. Staff Awareness
If you’re promoting your venue’s accessibility offerings online, please ensure your staff know about them as well. I’ve been to a few places before where staff didn’t know about the audio description devices mentioned on the website, for instance.
12. Prominent Information
Please ensure your venue’s accessibility information is prominent & easy to find on your website. And if you have accessible videos (audio described, captioned, etc), don’t unlist them on Youtube. You won’t reach the intended audience if you hide things away.
13. Unmarked Steps
Please make sure the edges of steps are clearly marked at your venues. It’s amazing how many places I’ve been to where this still isn’t the case, and it is very dangerous sometimes.
14. Audio Description – DVD & Streaming
It’s very frustrating when audio description isn’t included for programmes & films on DVDs & streaming services, especially when it is provided for the TV broadcasts, so you know the AD tracks exist. Content should be accessible across all platforms.
15. Pavement Parking
Please don’t park your vehicles or dump your dockless bikes on the pavement. It creates a big hazard for people who can’t see, and it’s very dangerous to go into the road to get past if you’re disabled, elderly, pushing a pram or trolley, etc.
16. Pavement Clutter
As well as parked cars & dockless bikes, I wish pavements had less clutter in general to make walking easier & safer – e.g. uneven paving, bollards (and ropes/chains between them), overhanging branches, signs outside shops, litter, dog mess, etc.
17. Silent Vehicles
Silent vehicles are impossible to detect if you can’t see well. The subset of cyclists who ride on pavements, jump red lights & zoom by at close range are dangerous enough, but now electric cars & e-scooters are a growing hazard. I need sound to be safe!
18. Pedestrian Crossings
Accessible pedestrian crossings make it a lot safer to get around, with bleeping, the tactile spinning cone under the button box. showing the red/green man on my side of the road & tactile paving for the blind. But many still don’t have these features.
19. Bus & Train Announcements
Audio announcements on buses and trains confirm to me that I’m on the right service and know where to get off. They’re very common in London (though there are times when they can’t be heard or don’t work), but availability is very hit & miss elsewhere.
20. Guide Dogs
Respect guide dogs. Don’t illegally refuse them entry to businesses, transport, events, etc. Don’t stroke or distract them without their owner’s consent. And don’t fear them. Just let these beautiful animals do the vital support work they’re trained for.
21. Airport Assistance
I’ve never understood why some airlines insist on a wheelchair reservation when I want to book assistance, or try to make me use a wheelchair at the airport. I can walk fine, it’s my eyes that are dodgy. Save the chairs for those who really need them.
22. Home Appliances
The obsession with touch screens & small displays on appliances like cookers & washing machines makes them impossible to use when you’re visually impaired. It’s severely limited our choice of appliances with tactile controls that we can safely operate.
23. Include Disabled People
Don’t exclude disabled people from things on the assumption we’re uninterested or incapable, or you don’t see the point in making it accessible. We’re keen & able to do more than you realise, we just need a bit of help sometimes. Don’t be afraid of us.
24. Involve Disabled People
It’s vital to plan accessibility & involve disabled people as employees & user consultants from the start, when designing buildings, infrastructure, products, services, events, apps, websites, etc. It makes life much easier for everyone in the long run!
That’s it, I hope you found that informative. Some people and businesses are of course very good at accessibility, and are keen to engage with disabled people to meet their needs. But there are still many examples of inaccessibility where awareness and education is still very much required, hence reminders like these are always useful and important.
So thank you again to Ginny Butcher for creating the campaign, and thank you for reading my contribution to it. Do have a look at the other issues that people have highlighted too, as naturally there are many things I haven’t mentioned. I hope it all gives some food for thought!