As a visual designer, speaking to a girl with blindness and her guardian was pretty sobering.

On my way commuting back from work, I was working on designing a side project – agonizing over the details of a subtle visual system that would remain compositionally balanced as the user inputted information. It was a delicate balance of usability with visual style and was only for a very specific component.

Later in my commute, met a girl who was blind. I took a break from my project (it felt odd at that point) and asked about how she navigated the web. I listened as she talked a bit about JAWS and how annoying unlabeled images were. She ended up referring me to her guardian saying that he would know more. In passing, she said something that struck me:

"I don't browse the web very often..."

I discussed web accessibility with her guardian, listened and took notes. He gave the frustrating example of trying to find the form to input flight information when it wasn't labeled. He mentioned common hurdles and the fact that web accessibility has improved over the past years:

"It's gotten a lot better..."

Things they mentioned weren't complicated or new for web developers, but often get pushed aside:

  • Photos should be labeled
  • The ability to skip navigation to go straight to the content is helpful
  • Navigation based on headings is much appreciated
  • Pages that "refresh too quickly" mess up screen readers (Guessing this may be additional, server pushed content after the initial view loads)

After chatting I thanked them answering my questions. It was definitely an interesting experience for someone who spends days working on user interfaces and visual communication.

Thoughts? Let me know @Aetherpoint