Mar 022014

I’m definitely not an expert on this topic, I just wanted to share what little I’ve learned in case it might help others.

Accessibility. If you have all your limbs, if you can walk and run with ease, if you can see relatively well with or without glasses, if you can speak without assistance, if you can hear without major problems… probably don’t think about accessibility as often as you should. It’s easy to have those blinders on. Easier still if you do not know anyone deaf, blind, handicapped.  At my first conferences it was a little tough for me to remember to face certain people when I spoke to them, and I screwed up sometimes. Luckily they’re not afraid to speak up and remind me to look at them, and then repeat myself.

If you’re able-bodied and don’t know anyone who isn’t, it’s sadly too easy to forget about accessibility.  I try, I do, but I don’t  get it as well as I could. Yesterday I learned something new.  A reader, Amanda, sent me this awesome note:

Hi Lilly,
I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your blog. I am blind, and I really appreciate the thoroughness of your reviews, as well as the absence of bullshit.  Also, I don’t know if you intentionally made your blog redesign accessible with a screenreader, but it is, and I was pleasantly surprised. Often, when people redesign their websites, accessibility is the last thing on their minds, and I find myself no longer able to read something I used to enjoy.  Definitely NOT the case with your redesign, and that’s just fantastic as far as I’m concerned.  Also, I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciate the fact that you almost always put descriptions of pictures you post in the images’ alt text. It’s so helpful.

There wasn’t really much of a point to this email. I just wanted to let you know how helpful your blog is to someone who can’t see pictures and who has to depend on the overblown ad copy when shopping for toys. So… thank you. :)

Screen readers. I knew in theory that they exist, but I knew nothing about them. Scratch that, know nothing. I’ve never seen one in action. I don’t know the tech. All I know is that this magical thing can look at a website and read it out loud. Usually. The problem apparently is compatibility. While I don’t have all the info yet, Amanda said:

The problem is that there are several different screen readers, and not all of them support the same things. For example, I use a Mac and its built-in screen reader, VoiceOver. Until very recently, VO and the Mac browser, Safari, didn’t support the Disqus comment system, whereas JAWS (a Windows-based screen reader) always supported Disqus.

But how do we know if a blog theme or site design is screen reader compatible? You can go the long route and utilize some of the sites and tools I have listed at the end, but accessibility to screen readers is just not a feature that gets mentioned when you’re looking at the technical info on a theme. I hope that someone can educate us in the comments of this post. I’m thrilled that the WordPress theme “Suffusion” is so accessible1. It’s not the only aspect to work on, though. When Amanda was mentioning the “alt text”, it’s something you do manually one of two ways. The first is by clicking on the “Edit Image” button if you’ve already inserted the image into the WYSIWYG editor portion of WP. The second is manually typing it in. The following code is for an image.

Up top is the Tantus Black Widow Harness. Below is the Lelo Mona 2, the We-Vibe 4, the We-Vibe Touch 2 and Tango 2, Lelo Mia 2, and Jopen Ego e5

Here are screen shots of what I was talking about with the alt text, too:

A screen capture showing what a draft of a post looks like in WordPress, demonstrating how to access the attributes of an image   A screen capture showing what the attributes window looks like for a photo in the draft post process of WordPress.

Here are a few links that might help if you’re interested in making your blog more accessible to screen readers and beyond.

I hadn’t even seen Robin’s post until after I’d heard from Amanda and written most of this, so it’s great timing. Robin, a great blogger/educator/reviewer, is going to be presenting at CatalystCon in a few weeks and talking about accessibility.  She makes her points about access being not JUST for those needing a screen reader, but other sorts of disabilities. While I’m not hearing impaired enough / in the right way to be able to use a hearing aid (yet), I am hard of hearing to a degree. I come across SO many podcast and video posts that I cannot use because I can’t understand what they’re saying. A transcript would go a long way. So instead, I miss out on the information because I don’t even bother to try listening anymore. I may be able to understand half of it, which is more than others who have more hearing loss than me. It’s not an uncommon disability, yet it’s common for podcasters and vloggers to forget it.  I’m sure it’s not easy work, but could do an mturk for someone else to transcribe it and the results mean that more people can access your information. Win, no?


Accessibility is making sure that people aren’t left out. It requires effort on our parts, but why wouldn’t you if you know how? You’d want it done for you if you were in their shoes. Also? The fact that no bullshit = more accessible is a giant fucking WIN.


UPDATE: I wanted to add in some choice quotes from those who were able to attend Robin’s session on accessibility at Catalyst, as they apply to blogs/sites.

  1. For the record, my previous theme was, too, but Amanda’s point was that she encounters changes in design too often that negatively impact her ability to read it. My last theme was Glow from