How Do People Who Are Blind Use Internet

How can we visit websites when we can not see the screen of computers? Fortunately, blind people can do this, but they need three things: braille translator, audio system, and keyboard shortcuts, but they can only visit accessible sites.

Alex Bernier is a technical director of BrailleNet, he said it’s hard to understand what the synthetic voice want to say, “Sometimes I have to slow down the speed of sound to understand a few words like title, heading level 2, link, loading in progress, please wait”. His synthetic voice is a software that reads everything that appears on the screen of his computer.

The voice speaks very quickly, so the blind person has to process a lot of data in his head in a very short period of time. “All this to navigate quickly”, says Alex Bernier, technical director of BrailleNet association that aims to integrate the disabled people in the digital world.

In addition to a synthetic voice, the blind person uses a braille translator connected with his computer. This device is composed of pins to translate words that appear on the screen into Braille.

According to Alex Bernier, this system is little used in French “there is 70 000 blind in french and only 10% use Braille because they do not learn this mode of writing.”

It must also be known that the braille translator is very expensive. translator of Alex costs 5000 euros, a sum that can be supported by the Agefiph in the framework of social security and employment. For the price of synthetic voice, it varies from free up to thousands of euros, fortunately, Apple has integrated VoiceOver for free on iPhone, Ipad, and Mac.

Stuck in a form

Once a blind person is equipped, in the beginning, he will confront problems like undescribed pictures and not readable in braille. Some sites only support mouse navigation and unfortunately, blind people do not have the possibility to use the mouse, they just use the keyboard shortcuts: Button Up and Button Space.

“So far, in the site of Airbnb, the form that allows the user to select the date supports only the mouse, when we click on the date to leave, we could not,” recalls Alex Bernier.

In the same case in online shops, when we want to submit an order or make the payment, we can’t click on the validate button by using the keyboard. Recently, the site of Fnac: “We can’t choose what type of bank card by using our keyboards because it is represented by a pictogram.”

“Sometimes we lose our nerves for nothing; to do things that normal people will do it very simply, like: buy the tickets for a concert or buy a book.”.  Alex Bernier said.

There are also problems in the administrative sites to make statements, we take a lot of time and sometimes we find that the button “Submit” is only activated with the mouse.

4% of websites are accessible

Yet, BrailleNet has developed a solution called Accessiweb, it is a repository that allows web developers to know if they respect the accessibility rules of the sites.

In 2005, the French published a law on this side, below the summary of this law.

Local authorities and public institutions must be accessible to disabled people.

After this law, the RGAA reference was published in the Official Journal in 2009 which indicates that the public service sites will have to be accessible in 2011, recalls Alex Bernier.

According to a survey done in 2014 by BrailleNet, 4% of the sites out of 600 are in compliance with the GRFA standards.

On July 28, 2015, the government stopped version 3.0 of the RGAA standard. Alex remains skeptical: “I think the government will not move and do something about these sites”.

“A lack of punishment”

“There is a lack of punishment and awareness,” says Alex. According to RGAA, any owner of a website that does not meet accessibility standards may experience legal problems and would list in a list of sites that are not accessible, but this procedure has never applied.

In short, there is no way to punish non-accessible sites.

For private sites, things are very bad, no incentive. As a result, No advancement in French.

Alex says that blind associations in the US managed to bend the Amazon business thanks to the union. “Kindle was used in American universities,” says Alex Bernier. “The problem that Kindle was not accessible for blind students, which created an inequality”. Amazon has finally vocalized Kindle.