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Letter to Podsafe Music Network Asking for Accessibility

November 1, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

I have just composed and sent the following request for accessibility to the Podsafe Music Network to C.C. Chapman at Podshow. I hope this will result in some constructive movement forward and will report any response to this correspondence I may receive.

November 1, 2005

Dear C.C.,

I am a podcaster who has been registered on the Podsafe Music Network for a couple of months now. Like other podcasters, I am excited about the opportunity to participate in a new independent form of media by playing and promoting music on the Blind Access Journal podcast. Yes. That’s right. I am a blind computer user who relies on a screen reading program that provides on screen text in Braille and spoken form.

Unfortunately, to this point, I have not been able to add music to my playlist for download and use on my podcast. There are currently a number of barriers that could be resolved with relatively minimal extra effort. Just a little concerted action to insure the accessibility of Podshow’s products and services would go a long way toward allowing the market of potentially hundreds of thousands of blind and visually impaired people worldwide to fully avail themselves of all the opportunities you are providing in podcasting.

The first accessibility barrier is the visual verification that follows the e-mail confirmation process. The currently accepted accessibility accomodation is to provide an audio playback of the characters to be entered in order to solve the CAPTCHA. Please browse to http://cvs.livejournal.org/browse.cgi/livejournal/htdocs/img/captcha/ to learn about Live Journal’s implementation of accessible visual verification. If companies like Live Journal, Microsoft and Spam Arrest can provide accessibility to their visual verification schemes, we expect you can, too.

Other barriers come into play once signed up as a podcaster on PMN in the form of inaccessible web site design. Though searching for artists seems to work, there are serious problems with listening, adding to one’s playlist, downloading and possibly other aspects of the system. While I am able to listen to songs, the buttons for doing so are unlabeled and do not play the expected track when selected using the JAWS screen reader. Similarly, and even more serious, selecting the link to add to the playlist does nothing at all. Since it is impossible for us to add music to our playlists as blind users, there really isn’t anything further we can do on PMN.

Please visit http://www.macromedia.com/resources/accessibility/ for information on the potential accessibility of Flash and possibly other Macromedia products you may be using at Podshow. Please also visit http://www.acb.org/accessible-formats.html for some excellent information on how to make web pages and other electronic documents accessible. At the moment, most blind and visually impaired podcasters are not allowed to participate on the Podsafe Music Network due to significant artificially imposed accessibility barriers. We in the blind community would like to work constructively with Podshow, in a spirit of cooperation and meeting each other halfway, to start resolving these issues in the very near future. Audio based media such as music and podcasting represent our most natural domain as blind people. It just would not be right at all if we were left out of even this aspect of life due to accessibility barriers that can be easily relieved with some creative energy, thought and action. I thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Darrell Shandrow

Blind Access Journal

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