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For April 2011:

Where to Find Accessibility Expertise

Where can someone find accessibility expertise to help in the web design/development/support cycle?

You would be surprised to learn how close at hand this expertise is and how available it can be. It's right here in our backyards; blind and partially sighted persons themselves. Blind and partially sighted persons are becoming more involved in website activities and are being used more as testers, evaluators, and as experts when it comes to deciding how to implement accessibility features into the design and development of websites.

There are none better than these persons to tell you how best and what is best to do when it comes to accessibility. They bring a lifetime of experiences to the evaluation and advice. Their knowledge of access technology (software and hardware) is second to none and they better than anyone else can guide you on how to design and develop screens.

Blind and partially sighted persons can help you to better understand what combination of foreground and background colors are needed in order to make the screen more readable. They can help you to learn how their software interacts with your websites. This includes but is not limited to graphics, icons, images, and drop-down and pop-up menus.

If your business is to provide products for diabetics to whom would you turn to for advice and feedback? Given feedback from two surveys one with only diabetic users responses and the other based on non-diabetic responses a vast majority of professionals would consult the latter.

One of the most common pitfalls for companies occurs when they attempt to use fully sighted expertise to help them design and develop accessibility features. A sighted person may be able to understand but when it comes down to the finite points, they will never be able to fully understand what is needed and why. How could they? They use their eyes to navigate and blind and partially sighted persons use their ears to do the same.

In like manner, blind and partially sighted persons are not fully able to understand how sighted persons use their eyes to navigate and interact with websites. So the next time you are faced with who can provide you with accessibility expertise, look no further than the blind and partially sighted community. We do it all the time.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your free lance writer and roving reporter wishing you a terrific day.

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