We just received and verified some extremely disturbing news on the inaccessibility front. It seems Amazon.com has given the blind a rather unwelcome present for the Holiday Season in the form of yet another of the ever increasing “No Blind People Allowed” signs. Blind users of the JAWS screen reader developed by Freedom Scientific, the most widely used screen reader in the world, are apparently no longer allowed to perform essential shopping tasks such as reviewing product information on the web site. Though Amazon does offer a separate accessibility site, it provides a level of functionality that is far, far inferior to that found on their home page.
The letter below, provided by a highly competent user of the JAWS screen reader, serves to illustrate the difficulties. It is absolutely critical that everyone who is blind or cares about what happens to the blind write Amazon concerning this matter, asking and insisting that they work with the blind community to correct the situation promptly. Make no mistake, this issue and others like it are not simply “frustrations” but are serious, often intractible challenges to our ability to participate in society. Inaccessibility in an online store is tantamount to walking into a brick-and-mortar store and being told to get lost because you are of the wrong ethnicity. The currently imposed state of affairs represents an example of yet another “No Blind People Allowed” sign we must challenge at every possible opportunity.