Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Mobile versions of your favorite sites make great accessible alternatives

by Laura Legendary

It took me quite awhile to become an Amazon shopper. It wasn't because I didn't like to save money, or have merchandise delivered to my door, or because I felt no desire to join the online shopping revolution. It was that I was intimidated by the Amazon website, which for someone who uses a screen reader, can seem overwhelming. In an effort to sell nearly everything on Earth, Amazon has made for a serious time commitment for those who are unfamiliar with the landscape. I've heard even sighted users complain about the mind-boggling number of choices, and that navigating the Amazon website can be as formidable as navigating the actual South American Amazon.

Amazon is serious about getting your business. I know that because I complained to them about a certain inaccessible feature that had prevented me from using their site. I was subsequently contacted by a very solicitous person from the executive customer relations department, who immediately set about the task of correcting the problem. Further, he asked me to advise him as to other areas of the site that could use similar improvements. He thanked me for my contribution, and left me feeling as though I had made a real difference for those who would follow in my screen reading footsteps.

He left me with a few tips, too. One of which has proved to be useful not only for shopping at Amazon, but other websites as well. He pointed out that the mobile version of the Amazon website was a more accessible version of the main site, and it could be used by both desktop and mobile users. He said it lacked the "bells and whistles" of the main site, which I interpreted to mean the graphics, flash animation and other visual debris that can interfere with efficiency.

This was very good news.

As it turns out, the Amazon mobile site is the most wonderfully accessible, easy to use shopping interface imaginable. I can make a purchase at lightening speed, probably faster than a sighted person could. Fewer screens, fewer distractions, fewer "rabbit trails" that take you to a screen leading to nowhere.

To see this accessible alternative, go to http://www.amazon.com/access.

Facebook also has a mobile version of their site. Again, it's all text, no graphics, and lacks the ads and other happy hoopla that makes the site appealing to the light-dependent crowd.

Click this link to visit http://www.m.facebook.com.

More sites are now offering mobile versions of their main web properties, meant specifically for use with mobile phones. However, used with your desktop, these alternative versions also provide some great accessible options for anyone who is visually impaired, time-constrained, or who has anger-management issues and who detests the graphic flotsam and jetsam of most shopping or social media destinations.

Know of others? Send them my way!

Laura Legendary is a speaker, author and educator specializing in disability awareness, accessibility and assistive technology. Visit Eloquent Insights at http://www.eloquentinsights.com to request Laura for your next event. Find Laura's Accessible Insights blog at http://accessibleinsights.info/blog.

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