James Warnken advocates for digital accessibility – Canton Repository


Blindness is a spectrum and can affect people in a variety of ways.
A visual disability cannot be corrected with contacts, glasses or surgery. For me, my visual disability is caused by genetics, which cannot be fixed.
When looking at the blindness spectrum, it ranges from 20/20 vision through total blindness and it could also include conditions like color blindness. Visual impairments and legal blindness simply mean that the vision is below a certain threshold and cannot be resolved with common solutions.
When it comes to total blindness, many people can still perceive light and shadows, but may not be able to perceive colors and details. Color blindness comes in a variety of forms, including red-green, yellow-blue, and even grayscale, which all impact how someone might perceive different colors.
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Whether a user cannot perceive certain colors, has limited vision or has no vision at all, each are impacted by website design, formatting and overall functionality. Let’s look at a few examples:
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We all have personal preferences and methods to achieving our desired goals, whether it be on a mobile phone or a desktop computer.
The same is true among users with visual disabilities. Some users who have limited vision might use a magnifier for general everyday tasks, but may switch to a screen reader when reading a book or article.
Someone who is completely blind may use their phone for some tasks with the phone’s native screen reader software, but may switch to a computer when something like filling out a form is involved.
It is not a good idea to assume that all blind users use a screen reader on a desktop computer or users with low vision only user magnifiers. It all comes down to personal preference and what makes the most sense in order to achieve a goal in a timely and effective manner.
Any business that is open to the public should have a goal to provide an equivalent experience to all its current and potential customers. I say “should” because most businesses do not have this goal.
Businesses should ensure that if users cannot see the content, they can hear it. If they cannot hear the content, they can see it. And if they cannot use a mouse, they can use a keyboard.
The content should also be designed to consider cognitive disabilities to reduce the risk of distraction, irritation and confusion.
If these are considered and applied, it is very likely that a website, app, document or online platform is fairly accessible.
The step that takes a website from fairly accessible to mostly accessible is including users with disabilities in testing and feedback. In the business world, products and services are tested before being released, so why not invite a more diverse group of testers to explore your products and services before they release?
It really is that straightforward.
At the end of the day, users with disabilities are going to find solutions that fit their needs and allow them to be independent and successful.
From users with disabilities like blindness to users who do not have disabilities, we are all looking for a great experience that works for us. The business should be on top of changes within technology, user behavior and personal preferences to ensure that no matter the user’s preferences, an equivalent experience is always available.
James L. Warnken, a Stark County resident who was diagnosed with genetic retinal dystrophy at age 9, is the chief technology officer at Apex Communications Network.

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