Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A Novel Idea for Novel Writers

People who are living with blindness and vision impairments met during the month of October's Writers Circle.  This meeting is archived at the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired website (  Several participants were concerned about the inaccessibility of the national novel writing competition that is held during the month of November.  Writers tried to log into the contest website and found that some features such as the word count calculator were not available to them.  A word count of 50,000 is required for submitted manuscripts.  A man who contacted the website administrators with his complaint was told that work is being done to have the website screen-reader friendly by the opening of the contest on November 1.

Hadley learning experts praised and encouraged self-advocacy.  Since screen-readers have existed and been used for more than 30 years by people who live with a variety of disabilities, self-advocacy seems like reinventing the wheel and an exercise in redundant futility.  After having the pleasure of working with fully sighted librarians who assisted me on both a PC and a MAC as we attempted to update my WordPress website, I learned that even sighted, competent computer users have problems getting software to behave while using the most up-to-date web browsers, software, and screen-readers or voice-over.  I am tired of self-advocacy and wonder why organizations for the blind and visually impaired are not taking a good look at the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
If class action lawsuits seem too harsh but were necessary for other minorities who faced blatant discrimination, here is a more novel approach:  Send website administrators the following link to a seven page article that tells programmers how to write code that is accessible.
A Short Guide to Screen Reader Friendly Code - Ben Robertson › accessibility › screen-reader-friendly-code-guide
If this information is not already available in the first chapter of any textbook or online coursepack used to teach classes in computer programming and code writing, now is the time to include it.

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