Blind people struggle to use the Web

Not as daft as it sounds - call goes out for greater awareness

The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) is launching a campaign to raise awareness among Web designers of ways to make sites accessible to blind and partially sighted Web surfers. The campaign features a video, called 'Websites That Work' which details ways that advances in speech synthesis, and Braille display technology might be used to open up the Web to people with serious sight problems. Making computer technology available to everyone is a hot topic at the moment. In the US, research has found that 70 per cent of blind Americans struggle to secure employment. Campaigners place a hefty portion of the blame on the computer mouse, as well as slamming falling levels of braille literacy. In the UK, blind people are becoming increasingly "frustrated" bygraphical user interfaces which tended to be mouse operated, according to the RNIB. Microsoft says it has tried to address this problem by making its software respond to keyboard strokes as well as mouse clicks. Meanwhile, a helpline operator at the RNIB said that computer systems were largely accessible to people with sight loss and that employment problems were more likely to come from other areas. He said that along with negative attitudes, paper was still the worst enemy in the office, and that computers were "quite liberating". ® The RNIB site is here.

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