I am a blind resident of Massachusetts writing to bring to your attention at least two accessibility concerns on the senate.gov web site. Firstly, Essentially, it is not currently possible for a blind person relying on a screen reader to find their Senators. After selecting the state and pressing the Go button, the contact information for the appropriate two Senators is not provided as expected. Your web site may be rendering the expected information in a picture, or with some sort of nonstandard mark up conventions. This form can be found at the url:
In a brief review of the Senate web site, I also encountered a number of unlabeled links to key areas. A screen reader speaks these links as “teaser/teaser_btmgo”. You can find these unlabeled links at the url:
You can use a text browser rendering tool to get an idea of how such a page appears in a screen reader. Here is an example for the above mentioned page:
This tool gives you an idea about how the page controls might be read by a screen reader to a person who is blind.
I would like to request that you engage people with disabilities in your business requirement design, , development, beta testing, quality assurance, and other internal processes used to maintain the web site and other in use technologies. For example, if people who are blind who use assistive technology were part of your testing process, it is very unlikely that these two particular issues would have materialized on the in production web pages. From a web development perspective, it is easier and less resource intensive if you build accessibility in to processes from the ground up, instead of so-called “bolted on” accessibility after a web site or other technology solution has gone in to production.
As a taxpaying citizen who has paid in part for the creation of this web site, I am asking that you work to correct these issues so that blind and visually impaired citizens may fully utilize the capabilities and resources offered by the web site. Again, also, accessibility testing and validation exercises should be conducted before new content or features are placed in production to assure that such implementations and changes are accessible. Accessibility and usability by people who are blind should not be simply a one-off process, or something only evaluated when usability feedback like this is received. Instead, as I have noted, accessibility should become a key part of your business process and corporate DNA. Under Section 508, the U.S. government has pledged to be a model citizen in this regard, and making accessibility an ongoing front burner initiative is part of this commitment. Furthermore, these actions will aid the private sector in modeling similar standards and behaviors.
I would be pleased to help you in these endeavors. I will also provide some web addresses where you can obtain more information about accessibility and assistive technology used by people with disabilities:
Making Your Web Site Accessible to the Blind
by Curtis Chong
Director of Technology
National Federation of the Blind
Watchfire WebXACT, a tool that can be used to create an initial and preliminary check on a web sites accessibility and Section 508 compliance:
These automated testing tools are useful, but are not a substitute for involving people with disabilities in your business and technical processes as outlined above.
This is a program of the National Federation of the Blind which enables organizations to seek consulting services and certification once a web site is made accessible. The program combines automated testing as well as real world end user acceptance testing using assistive technologies.
Jaws For Windows Screen Reader (including free demo version):
This is the software used by people who are blind which reads computer information in synthetic speech or provides it using refreshable braile displays.
Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) – home page
This is a standards organization that provides guidelines on web development including accessibility considerations.
Section 508: The Road to Accessibility
The federal government has pledged by law to be a leader in this area, and holds itself accountable to ensuring that web sites and other technologies are accessible to people who are blind as well as those with other disabilities. The above links to a federal government Section 508 portal.
Thank you in advance for your effrorts in these areas. I trust that the information and links are helpful to you, and again I look forward to working with you in the near future.
cc: Jennifer Fay, Help Committee, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts
Help Committee General Office, U.S. Senate